Reliable single emitters delivering >10W in the 9xx nm spectral range, are common building blocks for fiber laser pumps. As facet passivation techniques can suppress or delay catastrophic optical mirror damage (COMD) extending emitter reliability into hundreds of thousands of hours, other, less dominant, failure modes such as intra-chip catastrophic optical bulk damage (COBD) become apparent. Based on our failure statistics in high current operation, only ~52% of all failures can be attributed to COMD. Imaging through a window opened in the metallization on the substrate (n) side of a p-side down mounted emitter provides valuable insight into both COMD and COBD failure mechanisms. We developed a laser ablation process to define a window on the n-side of an InGaAs/AlGaAs 980nm single emitter that is overlaid on the pumped 90μm stripe on the p-side. The ablation process is compatible with the chip wire-bonding, enabling the device to be operated at high currents with high injection uniformity. We analyzed both COMD and COBD failed emitters in the electroluminescence and mid-IR domains supported by FIB/SEM observation. The ablated devices revealed branching dark line patterns, with a line origin either at the facet center (COMD case) or near the stripe edge away from the facet (COBD case). In both cases, the branching direction is always toward the rear facet (against the photon density gradient), with SEM images revealing a disordered active layer structure. Absorption levels between 0.22eV – 0.55eV were observed in disordered regions by FT-IR spectroscopy. Temperature mapping of a single emitter in the MWIR domain was performed using an InSb detector. We also report an electroluminescence study of a single emitter just before and after failure.