What We Know About The 9 People Who Died In The Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe
By Ryan Fonseca and Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
On Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying nine people crashed in the hills above Calabasas, killing everyone aboard. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner's office has yet to officially identify the victims, but family members, friends, schools and other entities have been naming them and sharing their stories.
The victims include Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, two of her teammates on the basketball team Bryant coached, some of those girls' parents and the helicopter pilot. Here's what we're learning about them.
Bryant was traveling with his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people, reportedly en route to his Mamba Sports Academy facility in Thousand Oaks.
The basketball legend played for the Los Angeles Lakers his entire career, leading to five NBA championships, 18 all-star selections, and a league MVP award over 20 years.
As news of his death spread, tributes poured in, including from our own Erick Galindo, who wrote about why Bryant's death hurts so much for Angelenos and Lakers fans.
Bryant's last tweet and Instagram post were congratulatory messages to Lakers star LeBron James, who surpassed Bryant for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list during the Lakers' 108-91 loss to the 76ers on Saturday.
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In addition to Gianna, Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have three daughters — Natalia, Bianka and Capri, who was born last June.
Bryant's daughter, Gianna, was an up-and-coming player in her own right. She played with the Los Angeles Lady Mambas, which was coached by Bryant and is part of a co-ed youth basketball league he created in partnership with the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club.
The team plays at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where the group was heading Sunday morning for a tournament.
Gianna, also known as Gigi, recently posted an Instagram video of herself in action.
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JOHN, KERI AND ALYSSA ALTOBELLI
Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa confirmed that its head baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa, were aboard the helicopter and died in the crash. Alyssa Altobelli was a teammate of Gianna Bryant's on the Los Angeles Lady Mambas.
"We're just all in disbelief over what's been happening," said Gina Sanchez, John Altobelli's sister.
Speaking from her father's home in Newport Beach, she said her brother was drafted by the Miami Marlins, but soon realized he "didn't care for it" and left to pursue a career coaching. He later landed a job at OCC, where he also taught classes.
It is with a shattered heart that we announce the passing of longtime head baseball coach John Altobelli, who died on Sunday in a helicopter crash, along with his wife, Keri and youngest daughter, Alyssa. https://t.co/3fjndZDzXD pic.twitter.com/cWFch9H4SV— OCC Athletics (@OCCAthletics) January 27, 2020
"John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball," Orange Coast College Athletic Director Jason Kehler said in a 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. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy."
Major League Baseball players also paid tribute to the longtime coach. Mets infielder Jeff McNeil tweeted that "both the baseball and basketball world lost a great one today," calling Altobelli "one of my favorite coaches I have ever played for and one of the main reasons I got a chance to play professional baseball."
The Altobellis had two other children — a daughter, Alexis, and a son, J.J., who is a scout for the Boston Red Sox.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said on Twitter that she had learned Christina Mauser was among those killed in the crash. Foley said Mauser was a coach and the wife of Matt Mauser, lead singer for the Tijuana Dogs, a popular Orange County band. Matt Mauser had been scheduled to perform at the Brea Improv Sunday evening.
The venue called off the show, saying: "Due to unforeseen circumstances, this event has been cancelled."
Appearing on NBC's Today Show, Matt Mauser said he and his family were doing "as good as you can expect."
"It's horrible. It's just horrible," he said, his voice cracking with emotion. "I've got three small kids and trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom."
He said of Kobe Bryant: "He didn't choose Christina for any ordinary reason, she was extraordinary... she was warm, she was incredibly bright."
SARAH AND PAYTON CHESTER
Payton Chester, a 13-year-old basketball player, and her mother, Sarah, were also aboard the helicopter. Sarah's brother, La Serna High football coach Andy George, told the Orange County Register that Payton played for the Lady Mambas for years.
"We're just sad, I mean, we're heartbroken," George told the newspaper. "It's starting to settle in a little bit, but I'm still in disbelief. We were always trying to be there for each other and we were really close."
Zobayan was a licensed commercial helicopter pilot and was also listed as a licensed flight and ground instructor, according to FAA records.
Peter and Claudia Lowry, who own Group 3 Aviation, a helicopter tour and flight school company, said Zobayan was a friend who first learned to fly through their company in 1998.
"Flying was his life's passion," the couple wrote.