Nine people lost their lives Sunday morning in a fiery helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, including former NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Bryant and his daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Maria Onore, were en route to the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game when the crash occurred.
Other victims have been identified as:
- Pilot Ara Zobayan
- Mother and daughter, Sarah and Payton Chester
- Girls’ assistant basketball coach, Christina Mauser
- Orange Coast College (OCC) baseball coach John Altobelli, his daughter Alyssa Altobelli and his wife, Keri Altobelli
The Los Angeles Times reports that the group was traveling in a Sikorsky S-76B during foggy conditions that may have played a factor in the crash. Along with weather conditions, investigators are also focusing on the possibility of mechanical failures.
Experts indicated that although bad weather alone may not have caused the crash, failure to use visibility equipment during low visibility could have.
“The likelihood of a catastrophic twin-engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen,” Kurt Deetz, a former pilot of the company the private helicopter was registered to, told the outlet.
An LAPD spokesperson indicated that the weather, however, “did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” resulting in both the Los Angeles Police Department and sheriff’s department grounding their helicopters for the day.
Bryant was known to travel in helicopters frequently. According to Sky News, the former Lakers player, who stood 6-feet-6-inches tall, found helicopters more comfortable than long car rides.
According to CNN, OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa said that Gigi and Alyssa were teammates at the Mamba Academy. John Altobelli and his daughter would often use helicopters to get to games.
Christina Mause was not only an assistant girls basketball coach, but she also taught at a K-8 private school in Orange County.
Bryant was an 18-time NBA All-Star who spent his 20-year basketball career with the Los Angeles Laker before his 2016 retirement. He was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist and an NBA Finals MVP two times in his career.
Gigi followed in her father’s footsteps and had dreams of becoming a professional basketball player one day. She was the second child born to Bryant, who shared four daughters with his wife, Vanessa Bryant.
Bryant was a youth basketball coach for Gigi’s team, according to ClutchPoints.
Zobayan was an experienced flyer, said the be a kind-hearted man who often paid special attention to Bryant and his daughter. He was “very much loved in the aviation community,” according to KTLA’s Christina Pascucci.
The story continues to develop. Check back for updates.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Here is our latest episode.
[Feature Photo: Kobe Bryant and family via AP/Faye Sadou/MediaPunch /IPX]