Handling the media was an even all by itself, sheriff says
For the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, dealing with the news media in the aftermath of the skiing death of celebrity Sonny Bono was an event in itself.
Sheriff Ron Pierini started his day Tuesday fielding pre-dawn telephone calls about the congressman’s fatal accident at Heavenly Ski Resort. He ended the day with a satellite appearance on the “Larry King Live” show.
“It’s a high profile case,” Pierini said. “I think one of the things I appreciate most is my staff. They did an excellent job putting the case together.”
In addition to investigating Bono’s fatal skiing accident for any signs of foul play, the DCSO also acts as the county coroner’s office.
“We had a double role to perform, and my staff did an outstanding job of keeping me abreast of what was going on,” he said.
Pierini said he had 10 officers working on the investigation, including himself.
“Dealing with the media is a major event in itself,” Pierini said. “There’s no way I could have done the job I did without them.”
Pierini said he believed interest in the tragedy was magnified by the Dec. 31 death of Michael Kennedy in a similar accident.
“There was a real parallel,” Pierini said. “The incidents happened twice in one week with high-profile people. The media was interested in ascertaining all the details.”
The sheriff’s department and Heavenly Ski Resort held several news conferences on Tuesday, attracting reporters and television crews from all over.
“We probably had 50 people in the media room and at least eight or nine satellite trucks,” he said. “I think the media is somewhat satisfied. We were fast and accurate with the details and covered every base we know. If we didn’t know an answer, we researched it between news conferences.”
Pierini said he was asked several questions about Bono’s blood alcohol content, information which won’t be available for three weeks. The autopsy was performed by the Washoe County coroner’s office in Reno.
“We worked well with the people at Heavenly Valley. They have a lot of faith in this organization as we do in theirs,” the sheriff said.
“It’s a hard job,” Pierini said, “especially dealing with the family. I heard nothing but praise from people around Mr. Bono’s staff, saying how much empathy our officers had for the family, especially with his wife Mary.”