Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Crash: Who Were the Victims?
Former Los Angeles Laker and all-around basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, perished in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. The news, first broken by TMZ, shocked the world and placed a massive cloud of sadness over the Grammy Awards, which were held at the Staples Center; the center that Bryant called home for the entirety of his basketball career. Bryant wasn’t alone on the flight. Beside him were his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. It took hours for word of the other victims to be released. All nine victims in the crash have been identified as of Jan. 27. So, who exactly were the victims of the Calabassas crash?
Kobe Bryant died alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna
Bryant was a family man through and through, insist those who were closest to him. He had a special bond with Gianna, 13, who was a basketball phenom in her own respect. The pair were headed to a basketball game together when the helicopter they were riding in crashed into a hill in Calabasas, California.
Bryant had credited Gianna, who had a dream of playing at the University of Connecticut and then the WNBA, for getting him back into basketball. In the months leading up to their tragic deaths, the pair were spotted at several games together. Bryant also coached Gianna’s team. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, and three other daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and infant, Capri, were not aboard the helicopter. They have yet to make a public statement about the loss.
A college baseball coach, his daughter, and his wife were aboard the ill-fated flight
The New York Times has reported that a baseball coach and his family were also aboard the flight. All three perished in the crash. They have been identified as John Altobelli,56, his wife, Keri Altobelli and the couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa Altobelli.
The elder Altobelli was the baseball coach at Orange Coast College, a community college in Costa Mesa, California. According to the Orange County Register, Altobelli was entering his 28th season as a coach at the college. A tribute to the Altobelli family appeared on the baseball field that he called home for so many years. A bouquet of flowers was laid on the home plate. The Altobellis are survived by two children, Alexis Altobelli and J.J Altobelli, a baseball scout.
A women’s basketball coach perished in the crash
Christina Mauser, a basketball coach, and teacher, also died in the crash, her husband confirmed last night. Mauser was a coach and teacher at Harbor Day School before leaving the position to work with Bryant, according to reports. Mauser, 38, was working with Bryant as an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team at the Mamba Sports Academy. According to USA Today, she was brought on last year to help the team with defense.
Mauser’s husband, Matt Mauser, a musician, shared the news of his wife’s passing on Facebook. He wrote, “We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. …Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much.” The couple shared three children. None of her children were aboard the doomed helicopter.
A well-respected pilot lost his life
Ara Zobayan, an experienced pilot, was identified as a victim in the crash. Zobayan was a commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor. The New York Times has reported that Zobayan had more than 20 years of experience flying in Southern California. A student of Zobayan told The Los Angeles Times that he knew instantly that Zobayan had perished in the crash when word broke that Bryant had died in an aviation accident.
The student, Darren Kemp, claims that Bryant and Zobayan had forged a close business relationship over the years and that he was often called upon to fly Bryant to and from various events. According to recent reports, the helicopter piloted by Zobayan had received special permission to operate in the fog shortly before the crash.
The final two victims have been identified
The names of the last two victims had been undisclosed until this morning. The New York Post has reported that the last two victims were Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton Chester. The mother-daughter duo was aboard the flight to the basketball game when the chopper went down. Payton, 13, was a teammate of Gianna’s, according to reports. Riley Chester, a family member, took to Instagram to pay tribute shortly after the news broke. He has since set his Instagram to private.
The Chester family has not released an official statement regarding the loss. The crash is still an ongoing investigation and details are still being released. It could be months before an official cause of the crash is released, although the weather is believed to have played a factor.