A senior journalist for one of America's largest news organisations has been suspended over a shocking gaffe in his reporting of the Kobe Bryant tragedy.
NBA legend Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed when the helicopter carrying them crashed in Southern California on Sunday.
‘COULD HAVE HELPED’: Startling new details about Kobe’s helicopter
Prior to confirmation of Gianna's death, ABC News chief national correspondent Matt Gutman inaccurately said during a live cross that Bryant's three other daughters - Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3 and Capri, 7 months — were also on board the helicopter.
Gutman was forced to apologise after being made aware of the shocking mistake on live television.
Today I inaccurately reported it was believed that four of Kobe Bryant’s children were on board that flight. That is incorrect. I apologize to Kobe’s family, friends and our viewers. pic.twitter.com/yYwuB9vpZl— Matt Gutman (@mattgutmanABC) January 27, 2020
“Today I inaccurately reported it was believed that four of Kobe Bryant’s children were on board that flight. That is incorrect. I apologise to Kobe’s family, friends and our viewers.”
ABC News confirmed Gutman's suspension to the Los Angeles Times.
“Reporting the facts accurately is the cornerstone of our journalism,” a spokesperson from ABC News said.
“As he acknowledged on Sunday, Matt Gutman’s initial reporting was not accurate and failed to meet our editorial standards.”
“We are in the business of holding people accountable,” Gutman added.
“And I hold myself accountable for a terrible mistake, which I deeply regret. I want to personally apologise to the Bryant family for this wrenching loss and any additional anguish my report caused.”
Gutman’s suspension comes after Bryant’s wife Vanessa made her her first public statement about Kobe and Gianna, three days after losing her husband and 13-year-old daughter in a helicopter crash.
Bryant posted a lengthy statement on Instagram on Wednesday, alongside a touching portrait of the entire family.
In the post, Bryant thanked the millions of people who have shown their support, love and prayers toward the family in the wake of their unthinkable tragedy.
“We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri,” Vanessa wrote.
“We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately.
“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now.
“I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon.
“I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them.
“But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way.
“Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.”
New details about helicopter carrying Kobe
The helicopter carrying the Bryants did not have a recommended warning system to alert the pilot he was too close to the ground but it is not clear if it would have averted the crash, investigators say.
At issue is what is known as a Terrain Awareness and Warning System, or TAWS, which would have sounded an alarm if the aircraft was in danger.
While the cause of the wreck that killed the former NBA superstar, his 13-year-old daughter and the seven others aboard on Sunday is still under investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board may again recommend helicopters with six or more passenger seats be required to have such equipment.
The pilot in Sunday's crash, Ara Zobayan, had been climbing out of the clouds when the chartered aircraft banked left and began a sudden 1200ft descent that lasted nearly a minute, investigators said on Tuesday.
It slammed into a fog-shrouded hillside, scattering debris more than 500ft.