ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. (Hayley Fowler/The Charlotte Observer) - As mourners gathered Monday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial, Fletcher Collins remained outside with a tribute of his own - a custom-designed casket.
Collins is a casket maker and pastor from North Carolina, according to his website.
So when the 41-year-old basketball legend and his 13-year-old daughter died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in California along with seven other people, he memorialized them the best way he knew how.
“This is nothing people have ever seen. This is something I created,” Collins told the Fayetteville Observer. “And the whole vision behind it — I cannot take the pain away. I try to capture moments to bring back life, energy, and the inspiration of the loved ones and their legacy.”
The casket is purple and gold with homages to Bryant’s legacy as a five-time NBA champion, pictures on social media show.
It was designed in three days and features the L.A. skyline, a replica of the Lakers’ court and five championship trophies, WRAL reported.
Images of the nine victims from the crash are displayed on the interior, and black lettering on the casket’s side reads “Mamba Out,” photographs show.
According to the Fayetteville Observer, a friend of the Bryant family asked Collins to build the memorial to honor the victims. He drove across the country to unveil it on Feb. 18, nearly a week before Monday’s tribute service at the Staples Center where Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, and others remembered the NBA legend and his daughter.
Collins was “live” on Facebook during the memorial, filming mourners and fans who stopped by for photographs with the casket.
He told the Fayetteville Observer he wasn’t sure whether the Staples Center or the family will keep the casket. If not, he reportedly plans to put it up for auction and use the proceeds to start a nonprofit.
Collins owns Glorious Custom Designs in Elizabethtown, about 50 miles northwest of Wilmington in North Carolina.
He’s designed almost 100 custom caskets for families — including a “Paw Patrol”-themed casket for a 6-year-old who drowned in Alabama last year, WWAY reported.
He also made a “Cadillac casket for notorious drug kingpin Frank Lucas,” according to WRAL.