KOBE Bryant, the Lakers’ legendary, US basketball superstar, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, one of the sport’s budding stars, were among nine people who died last Sunday in a helicopter tragedy.
They were named as baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife, Keri, and their basketball-playing daughter Alyssa; mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester; Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
They were travelling in Bryant’s Sikorsky S-76, when it crashed and burst into flames on a California mountainside in Calabasas Los Angeles, at around 10am, during foggy conditions.
Bryant, 41, a five-time NBA champion, who spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers’, used his helicopter regularly to travel to and from matches, staged at the LA Laker’s Staples Center.
The city of Calabas said on Twitter: “It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. The aircraft went down in a remote field, off Las Virgenes, but nobody on the ground was hurt.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the LA County coroner’s office reported on Sunday night that the recovery effort was expected to take several days, because of the crash site’s condition, as well as its remote location. Officials shut down roads leading to the site because of a throng of visitors trying to get there.
The helicopter, built in 1991, left John Wayne Airport at 9.06am, according to publicly-available flight records, heading for Camarillo Airport. The chopper passed over Boyle Heights, near Dodger Stadium, and circled over Glendale during the flight.
The crash happened in Calabasas, and the authorities received a 911 call at 9.47am, just three minutes after a tower reported that the aircraft was too low to receive guidance.
Firefighters arrived to discover that the crash had ignited a brush fire, covering one quarter of an acre in steep terrain, said LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby.
Those attending the tragedy included 56 firefighters, as well as a helicopter with paramedics, hand crews and sheriff’s deputies.
“Our firefighters hiked into the accident site with their medical equipment and hose lines to extinguish the stubborn fire, as it included the brush fire… and the helicopter,” Osby told a news conference on Sunday afternoon.
“The fire also included magnesium, which is very hard for firefighters to extinguish because it reacts with oxygen and water.”
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. And the FBI are also assisting in the probe, which is standard practice.
Tributes poured in from several global sports stars, and devastated NBA commissioner Adam Silver, said: “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary.
“But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”
Silver added: “He was generous with the wisdom he acquired, and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.”
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