Sunday, January 26, 2020
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died after a helicopter crash on a hillside in Calabasas, a suburb near Malibu, California. He was 41. According to authorities, a total of nine people were onboard and all died when the helicopter crashed.
The crash killed the basketball icon, his 13-year-old daughter, two coaches at schools in Orange County, the wife and daughter of one of those coaches, the pilot, and two other individuals who have not yet been publicly identified.
Here’s what we know so far about the crash victims:
Kobe Bryant: The 41-year-old basketball legend was a married father of four girls, ranging in age from less than 1 year to 17 years old. He played for the Lakers for 20 seasons, winning five championships, and was selected to the All-Star team 18 times.
Gianna “Gigi” Maria-Onore Bryant: Kobe’s daughter was 13 years and a budding basketball star herself. Kobe coached her AAU team, who wore black “Mamba” uniforms.
John Altobelli, Kerri Altobelli, daughter Alyssa Altobelli: John Altobelli was the longest-tenured baseball coach in the history of Orange Coast College, entering his 28th season. His wife Kerri and daughter Alyssa were on the helicopter when it crashed, according to Altobelli’s brother, Tony. Altobelli led the Pirates to numerous championship titles, garnering more than 700 wins during his career and four state championships.
“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” said Coast Athletic Director Jason Kehler in a written statement. “He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none – he treated them like family.”
Christina Mauser: She was an assistant basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Orange County. Her husband Matthew Mauser, the head basketball coach at the school, posted on Facebook: “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much.”
The helicopter crashed on a steep hillside in the Calabasas area and burst into flames, killing all nine aboard Sunday morning, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Weather was extremely foggy Sunday morning, and law enforcement sources tell us even LAPD air support was grounded because of it. Flight tracker data shows Kobe’s chopper appeared to first encounter weather issues as it was above the L.A. Zoo. It circled that area at least 6 times at a very low altitude — around 875 feet — perhaps waiting for the fog to clear.
It is known that the pilot contacted the control tower at Burbank Airport around 9:30 AM PT, and the tower was aware the pilot had been circling for about 15 minutes. The pilot eventually headed north along the 118 freeway before turning to the west, and started following above the 101 freeway around Woodland Hills, CA.
At around 9:40 AM encountering more serious fog, the chopper then turned south. This was critical, because they turned toward a mountainous area. The pilot suddenly and rapidly climbed from about 1200 feet up to 2000 feet.
However, moments later — around 9:45 AM — they flew into a mountain at 1700 feet. Flight tracker data shows they were flying at about 161 knots.
Late Sunday afternoon, one of many sports stars commented on Kobe Bryant’s death. Michael Jordan has spoken saying:
“I am in shock over the tragic news of Kobe’s and Gianna’s passing. Words can’t describe the pain I’m feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much.” Jordan said “He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force. Kobe was also an amazing dad who loved his family deeply — and took great pride in his daughter’s love for the game of basketball. Yvette joins me in sending my deepest condolences to Vanessa, the Lakers organization and basketball fans around the world.”
Witnesses reported seeing the chopper going down quickly and then slamming into the ground, Fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda said. Flames that erupted in the crash were extinguished, authorities said about 10:30 a.m.
“The helicopter sputtered suddenly in heavy fog and then a boom as it hit the ground” said one person who saw the crash.
Capt. Imbrenda said it’s unknown where the helicopter was heading to or coming from at this time. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are responding to the scene.
Kobe has famously used a helicopter to travel for years — dating back to when he played for the Lakers. He was known for commuting from Newport Beach, CA to the Staples Center in downtown L A in his Sikorsky S-76 chopper.
Kobe is survived by his wife Vanessa, and three daughters — Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri.
Kobe had recently been spotted out at NBA games with daughter Gianna. Their youngest daughter, Capri, was just born in June 2019.
Kobe made 18 All-Star teams during his 20 year career with the Lakers. He was a first-round pick in the 1996 draft, winning 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs and he was the league MVP in ’08.
Bryant, was the fourth-highest scorer in NBA history, with 33,643 points. Bryant retired in 2016, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic.
He was on 15 All-NBA Teams, 12 All-Defensive Teams and led the league in scoring for two seasons. Kobe Bryant, was truly one of the greatest NBA players of all time.