CALABASAS, California (WCMH) — Condolences are pouring in for the victims of the Southern California helicopter crash who were on their way to a travel league basketball game when the aircraft went down, killing all nine people on board.
Kobe Bryant, Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant
Kobe Bryant is an 18-time All-Star who won five NBA championships while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. He inspired a generation of basketball players and is widely regarded as one of the best basketball players of all-time. Bryant, 41, is up for consideration this year for the Hall of Fame and will be a first-ballot inductee.
Bryant’s death shook the nation Sunday and led to an outpouring of heartfelt messages on social media. The San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors initiated a 24-second shot clock tribute, and the Dallas Mavericks retired Bryant’s No. 24 jersey even though he never played for them.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was a blossoming basketball star in her own right. She was the eldest of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant’s four daughters. Kobe and Gianna were on the way to one of her youth basketball games when the crash took place. Gianna wanted to play for the highly regarded UConn women’s basketball team in college and one day play in the WNBA. She was so similar to her father that her nickname was Mambacita, a play on Bryant’s “Mamba” moniker.
John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli
John Altobelli was the coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team in Costa Mesa, Calif. He was the longest-tenured coach in the team’s history. He had ties to Texas, playing two years in college for the Houston Cougars and later serving one season as assistant coach.
John’s wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, were also on the helicopter. Alyssa was basketball teammates with Gianna Bryant, and they were all traveling to their basketball game in Thousand Oaks, Calif. It was something the Altobelli family routinely did, OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa told CNN.
John Altobelli was a college teammate and roommate of University of Texas head baseball coach David Pierce. In a statement, Pierce said, “He, Keri, and Alyssa will be missed by so many and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about.”
Sarah Chester, Payton Chester
Sarah and Payton Chester were also killed in the crash. The 13-year-old Payton played on the basketball team with Gianna and Alyssa. She died with her mom, Sarah.
Payton’s principal wrote this heartfelt Facebook post, saying “the world is just a little less without you both in it.”
Christina Mauser was killed in the crash. She was a coach on the basketball team that Gianna played on and Kobe helped coach. Mauser was also an assistant basketball coach at Harbor Day School.
She was married to Matt Mauser, the drummer in the band Tijuana Dog. In a statement, he said, “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.”
Friends have identified the pilot as Ara Zobayan. KTLA in Los Angeles reports he was a helicopter instructor and “instrument rated.” That means he was certified to fly in foggy weather. The FAA says Zobayan had been a certified pilot for more than 13 years.