Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna die in helicopter crash
NBA legend Kobe Bryant and one of his daughters were among nine people killed Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, a source confirmed to ESPN. Bryant was 41.
Bryant was on his way to a youth basketball game with his daughter Gianna Bryant, who was 13, when the helicopter crashed. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a news conference that there were no survivors, and according to the flight manifest, there were nine people on board the helicopter.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said Sunday afternoon that the Federal Aviation Administration was on the scene and will work with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the crash.
Villanueva and Los Angeles County chief medical examiner Dr. Jonathan Lucas said later Sunday night that given the terrain and condition of the crash site, they expect the recovery effort to take anywhere from a couple to several days. After recovery is complete, the identification process can begin.
The cause of the crash is unknown. The helicopter departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m. PT. It was going to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for Gianna’s team’s game, sources told ESPN. The first 911 call reporting the crash was received at 9:47 a.m.
Orange Coast College baseball coaching legend John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa were among the victims, the Altobelli family confirmed. Altobelli won four California community college titles in his 27 years at the school.
Christina Mauser, 38, who coached a girls’ basketball team with Bryant, also died in the crash. “She was an amazing mother,” her husband, Matt Mauser, said in an interview with ABC News. “Our kids are amazing, they’re bright, they’re engaged, they engage in conversation, all that because of their mom. So I just, just try, I just want people to know how amazing my wife was.”
Matt Mauser said he told his wife, “Christina, you’re doing something that, you know, no other person in the world is doing. You’re coaching basketball with Kobe, and I’m so proud of you.”
Also killed in the crash were Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton, a middle school student, sources confirmed to ESPN. Riley Chester, Payton’s brother, posted a tribute to his family on Instagram on Sunday, writing, “Rest in Peace to the most amazing Mother and sister. I love you Pay Pay and Mom RIP.”
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50, was also killed, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Paula Lavigne.
The crash came one day after Bryant was passed by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James for third on the NBA career scoring list. As late as 10:39 p.m. ET Saturday, Bryant was active on social media, congratulating James on Twitter during the Lakers’ 108-91 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
A source told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that the Lakers found out about Bryant’s death while on the team plane flying home from Philadelphia.
“Everyone is in shock,” a team source said.
A visibly shaken James wiped his eyes with tissues and walked alone from the plane after it landed Sunday in California.
James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before Saturday’s game, showing respect for Bryant, an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers who is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.
All week, in the lead-up to the milestone, James was quick to laud Bryant.
“It’s another guy that I looked up to when I was in grade school and high school,” James said. “Seeing him come straight out of high school, he is someone that I used as inspiration. It was like, wow. Seeing a kid, 17 years old, come into the NBA and trying to make an impact on a franchise, I used it as motivation. He helped me before he even knew of me because of what he was able to do. So just to be able to, at this point of my career, to share the same jersey that he wore, be with this historical franchise and just represent the purple and gold, it’s very humbling, and it’s dope.
“Kobe’s a legend. That’s for damn sure.”
A 6-foot-6 swingman with the ability to swing up front and play point or shooting guard, Bryant entered the NBA out of high school. In 1996, at age 18, he became the youngest player in NBA history.
He won five NBA titles in his time with the Lakers, as well as two Olympic gold medals playing for the United States. Now fourth on the NBA career scoring list with 33,643 points, Bryant won two NBA Finals MVP awards and the regular-season MVP in 2008. He wore Nos. 8 and 24, both of which were retired by the Lakers.