CALABASAS, Calif. — Nine people died in the helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant — including his daughter, Gianna, and her basketball teammate.
The group was flying to Thousand Oaks, California, Sunday, Jan. 26 for a basketball game, where Gianna was expected to play and Bryant was expected to coach.
While police have not released the names of the people on board, family members of some victims have confirmed their loved ones’ deaths. Here’s what we know:
A baseball coach, his wife, and daughter
Orange Coast College (OCC) baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, were aboard the helicopter, said Altobelli’s brother, Tony Altobelli.
Gianna and Alyssa were teammates at the Mamba Academy, OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa told CNN, and Altobelli would often fly with his daughter to attend the games.
“There were two sides to John,” Tony Altobelli said. “People saw him on the baseball field, he’s gritty and tough as nails kind of guy but the other side of him, he was one of the biggest-hearted people you’ll meet in your life. He cared about his players, cared about his school.”
Altobelli, 56, leaves behind a son and daughter, according to an OCC Pirate Athletics news release.
“It’s hard to put into words what this loss means to the college and the athletics department,” OCC Athletics Director Jason Kehler said in a statement. “John was a tremendous coach and an even better friend. Beyond that, he was an amazing mentor to all of the students and athletes that he taught and coached. He treated them all like family and his impact will live on forever.”
Coach “Alto,” as he was known, was gearing up to begin his 28th season with the Pirates, who he helped lead to the state baseball championship last year, the release said.
Throughout his career, he stacked more than 700 wins and in 2019 was named by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as the ABCA/Diamond National Coach of the Year, OCC said in a statement.
He was a “giant” on the campus, OCC President Angelica Suarez said, a “beloved teacher, coach, colleague and friend.”
A coach and mother also was killed
Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at a K-8 private school in Orange County also died in the crash.
“My kids and I are devastated,” her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote on Facebook. “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 mayor of Costa Mesa — about 40 miles from Los Angeles — also tweeted about Mauser.
“This devastating tragedy gets worse by the hour,” Mayor Katrina Foley wrote on Twitter. “So much pain for so many local families. Our hearts are broken & grieving for the families impacted.”
US Rep. Harley E. Rouda of California called the loss of life “incalculable.”
“Today our neighbors lost parents, children, friends, coaches and heroes,” he said. “Orange County is grieving, but we will find solace and purpose in the example they left behind.”
A mother-daughter duo
Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton, were also passengers aboard the helicopter, according to a Facebook post by Todd Schmidt, principal at Harbor View Elementary School, where Payton once attended.
“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken,” Schmidt said.
Pilot killed in crash
The helicopter’s pilot was Ara Zobayan, according to a former colleague and a neighbor.
Pilot Kurt Deetz, who worked at Island Express helicopter company with Zobayan, said he considered Zobayan a friend and a trustworthy pilot.
Zobayan’s neighbor Robert Sapia said Zobayan loved his job and would show him photos of celebrity passengers, including Bryant.
According to the FAA’s pilot certification database, Zobayan is an instrument-certified pilot who earned his commercial pilot’s license in 2007. He is also a certified flight instructor for instrument instruction for helicopter pilots, the records show.
The database also shows Zobayan was up to date on FAA-required annual medical exams.
Kobe’s daughter followed in his footsteps
Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gigi, as he called her, shared the same passion for the game and she wanted to play in the WNBA as the heir to his legacy.
Recently, a video of the two of them went viral as he seemed to break down a game they were attending.
The NBA icon leaves behind his daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri, who was born in June, and his wife, Vanessa.
Bryant joined the NBA right out of high school, becoming the league’s youngest player in history and spent the next 20 seasons of his professional career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He held the position of the third-highest scorer in NBA history until he was surpassed by LeBron James Saturday night.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother,” Bryant wrote on Twitter afterward.