The crash also killed Gianna Bryant, 13, the second oldest of Kobe Bryant’s four daughters with his wife, Vanessa. They were travelling from the family’s base in Orange County, California, to Thousand Oaks, 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. A budding star herself, Gianna was scheduled to play an afternoon game with her travel team, coached by her father, at Kobe Bryant’s Mam
The crash came only hours after the 41-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers star was passed by current Lakers star LeBron James for third on the all-time NBA scoring list in a Saturday game at Philadelphia.
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 and lasted until his retirement in 2016.
He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping spark the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 at Beijing and 2012 at London.
News of Bryant’s death predictably rocked the NBA, which is filled with players who grew up watching Bryant as he won five championships with the Lakers and scored 81 points in a single game. Fueled by a seemingly endless reservoir of self-confidence, Bryant was a mammoth figure almost from the moment he arrived in the league, at age 17, as the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft.
The helicopter was described as a Sikorsky S-76, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.
The other victims of the crash included John Altobelli, a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, a junior college in Costa Mesa. Calif., as well as Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa, university officials said. The authorities said it could take several days to recover the bodies from the crash site.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva of Los Angeles County said the helicopter went down in an area with “very rough terrain,” and that even emergency officials had found it dangerous to reach during daylight on Sunday. The debris field, the sheriff said, was roughly 100 yards in each direction.