NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and his teen daughter Gianna, were two of the nine people killed in a helicopter crash in California over the weekend. One day after the tragedy, all the victims have been identified.
Among those killed in the Sunday, January 26, collision, were sports coaches, parents and young peers of Gianna — a basketball star who was following in her father’s footsteps. The helicopter pilot was also killed.
John Altobelli, a baseball coach at Orange Coast College died along with his wife, Keri, and their teen daughter Alyssa. OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa told CNN that John routinely flew to games with Kobe, 41, and his daughter, 13. Apart from his role as a loving father and husband, the baseball coach was known for having trained MLB stars Jeff McNeil and Donnie Murphy. He had worked at the community college for 27 seasons and took home the state championship just last year. He was also named coach of the year after leading the team to more than 700 victories in four state titles.
Basketball coach Christina Mauser also died in the brutal crash. The beloved instructor worked at Kobe’s Mamba Academy and was a girls’ basketball coach at the private elementary Harbor Day School in Newport Beach — where Gianna was a student. After her untimely death, her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote on Facebook: “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”
Payton Chester — who played with Gianna in their basketball team, the Mamba Lady Mavericks — and her mother, Sarah Chester, also died. Payton’s brother, Riley Chester, wrote on Instagram: “Rest In Peace to the most amazing Mother and sister. I love you Pay Pay and Mom RIP.”
Ara Zobayan, the helicopter pilot, was the last victim. Friends and loved ones showered him with praise on social media, with one fellow pilot calling him calling him an incredible, experienced pilot, who “was very much loved in the aviation community.” Friends also pointed out that Ara was qualified to fly in fog. As readers know, the sky was foggy at the time of the tragedy, though it is still unclear if the weather is solely what caused the crash.
The group was traveling to Mamba Academy for a practice game around 9:40 a.m. on Sunday when the flying conditions turned dangerous due to the weather, and the pilot crashed into a mountain in Calabasas.
RadarOnline.com obtained the troubling flight tower audio before the fatal collision.
Kobe and Gianna — nicknamed “Gigi” — are survived by Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, and Gianna’s three sisters: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months. Fans, friends and loved ones have taken to social media to voice their sadness over their untimely deaths and show support for Vanessa, 37.