The nine victims of the tragic helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna on Sunday have been identified.
The 12-seater Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was ferrying passengers from Orange County, Los Angeles to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game when it crashed into a mountainside in Calabasas.
The S-76 helicopter circled 10 times over the city of Glendale for about 15 minutes before crashing on Sunday morning at around 10 am. Everyone onboard the aircraft died.
Los Angeles Police Department confirmed conditions were not suitable for flying before the crash and had even grounded its fleet due to heavy fog.
Here are the nine victims onboard the aircraft.
Five-time NBA champion Bryant represented the LA Lakers for the entirety of his 20-year career and is considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever grace the game.
Kobe’s achievements include twice becoming NBA scoring champion and a two-time Olympic champion. The 41-year-old was also the 2008 Most Valuable Player and a two-time NBA finals MVP.
Kobe, who retired in April 2016, also played a major part in the second-highest single-game total in NBA history in 2006. The NBA star scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in the match.
In 2015, Kobe wrote a love letter to the sport, entitled Dear Basketball. This was turned into a short animated film, for which Kobe won an Oscar for in 2018.
Kobe and his wife Vanessa have four daughters: Natalia, Gianna, Bianca and Capri.
Gianna, 13, died in the helicopter crash alongside Kobe.
The second of Kobe’s four daughters, Gianna shared her father’s passion for basketball.
The 13-year-old was en route to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where she was due to play in a basketball tournament when the helicopter they were in crashed.
Gianna had ambitions to play for the University of Connecticut and then the Women’s NBA, with her middle-school basketball team being coach by her dad.
The teenager’s style of play was compared to her father’s, who described her as “something else” when she was in action on the court, and the pair were often spotted together watching basketball games.
On how Gianna revived his love for the game, Kobe told BET network: “It wasn’t me sitting there, you know as an athlete or a player or something like that, and you know it’s like about me, and I don’t like that. It was her, she was having such a good time.”
Zobayan was identified as the pilot of the helicopter that crashed in California.
Armenian by origin, Zobayan has been described as an “amazing person and an amazing pilot” by Margaret Bray, who has flown many times with the 50-year-old, according to Daily News.
Laura Herzog, who flew with Zobayan four years ago, added: “It was a very smooth flight. I felt comfortable.”
A friend of the tragic pilot, who taught helicopter pilots to fly, paid tribute to him on Twitter, writing: “Working for the aviation business has allowed me to meet some pretty amazing people and pilots.
“Ara was definitely one of them. Always so nice, talkative and especially attentive when it came to Kobe and his family. I’m heartbroken.”
JOHN, KERI AND ALYSSA ALTOBELLI
Alyssa was a close friend of Kobe’s daughter Gianna and played alongside her on the Los Angeles Lady Mambas Team.
Alyssa’s father John, known as “Coach Alto”, was head basketball coach at Orange Coast College’s Pirate Athletics.
Alyssa regularly travelled to practises and games with the Bryants, alongside her mother Keri and dad John, as confirmed by OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa on CNN: “It was something John routinely did, flying up with Kobe to attend games with his daughter.”
OCC said in a statement: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli. He was a coach, a colleague, a mentor and a friend at OCC for 27 years.”
Alyssa is survived by her two siblings, JJ and Alexis.
Mauser was a basketball coach at Mamba Sports Academy, where Gianna played for the Lady Mambas Team. The 38-year-old was also an assistant basketball coach at a private school in Orange County.
Mauser’s death was confirmed by Mayor of Costa Mesa, Katrina Foley, who tweeted: “She coached the girls team. This devastating tragedy gets worse by the hour. So much pain for so many local families. Our hearts are broken and grieving for the families impacted.”
Mauser lived in Huntington Beach, California and was married to Matt, with whom she shared three children with: Penny Rose, Tommy and Ivy.
“My kids and I are devastated,” wrote Matt 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.”
SARAH AND PAYTON CHESTER
Mother and daughter Sarah and Peyton were the final two victims onboard the aircraft.
Payton attended St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano.
Payton’s sister Riley posted a tribute to her sibling and mother on Instagram, writing: “Rest in peace to the most amazing mother and sister. I love you Pay Pay and Mon, RIP.”
Principal Todd Schmidt added: “As folks mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant, I want to take a moment to remember two gorgeous human beings who were with him, Sarah and Payton Chester.
As a principal, we work with some amazing families. The Chesters were one of those. Engaged, supportive, encouraging, and full of mischief and laughter – and they had the best kiddos!
“This family made such a huge impact at Harbor View. They were genuine, kind-hearted, and caring. To the staff, to other families, and yes, especially to me.”
The cause of the crash is under investigation but the control tower at Burbank Airport was contacted by the pilot shortly before 10 am local time. At around 9.40 am the helicopter turned south, towards a mountainous area, flight tracker data shows. Five minutes later it hit the hillside at 1700 feet, near the home of Kourtney Kardashian.
Officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene near Las Virgenes Rd and Willow Glen St in Calabasas after a group of mountain bikers spotted the smoke. The crash site is said to be difficult to access and authorities say it could take several days to recover bodies.