NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna along with nine people were killed in the helicopter crash, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday (January 26).
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident.
“There were no survivors… There were nine people on board the aircraft, the pilot plus eight individuals,” Villanueva said. The helicopter crashed in foggy weather in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas.
Authorities said firefighters received a call at 9:47 am about the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside.
The Los Angeles Times quoted police as saying that weather conditions were such that the Los Angeles Police Department’s air support division grounded its helicopters until the afternoon when the fog lifted.
“The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” said police spokesman Josh Rubenstein. Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said firefighters had to hike to the site with medical equipment and hose lines to extinguish the blaze.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed that Bryant’s daughter Gianna was among the victims.
“L.A. is grieving with the Bryant family over the loss of Gianna, who perished with her father and friends in today’s tragedy,” Garcetti wrote on Twitter.
Gianna was one of Bryant’s four children with his wife Vanessa.
The retired NBA star, 41, and Gianna were flying to a game his daughter was expected to play in when their helicopter crashed, according to US reports.
Local media said the other victims included another player and a parent. Orange Coast College confirmed that its baseball coach, John Altobelli, 56, was also onboard the helicopter.
CNN said Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and one of their two daughters, Alyssa, were aboard the chopper, as well. Villaneuva told reporters the authorities would not identify the victims pending notification of family members and identification from the coroner’s office.
“It would be extremely disrespectful to understand your loved one has perished and you learn about it from TMZ,” Villanueva said, referring to the celebrity news website that first broke the news about the crash.
“That is just wholly inappropriate, so we are not going to be going there. We are going to wait until the coroner does their job.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was dispatching an 18-person team to California to help with the investigation into the crash.
“Our team will be looking at the history of the pilot and whatever crew was on board,” said Jennifer Homendy, a member of the NTSB.
“We will be looking at maintenance records of the helicopter. We will be looking at records of the owner and operator of the helicopter and a number of other things.” She added that the helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76B that has a black box which investigators will seek to recover.
According to data from flightradar24.com, a flight-tracking site, the chopper took off from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana at 9:06 am. It headed northwest, reportedly to Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park, about 85 miles (137 kilometres) away.
Tributes from celebrities and fellow sports stars have been pouring in, many expressing shock at his sudden death.
— Complex Music (@ComplexMusic) January 27, 2020
Remembering a special moment between Kobe & LeBron after Kobe’s final game in Cleveland in 2016.
Rest in peace Kobe, his daughter, Gianna, & the victims of the helicopter crash in CA. Our deepest condolences to all who feel the heavy weight of such tragic loss. #RIPMamba pic.twitter.com/5kISd2tB3c
— FOX Sports Cleveland (@FOXSportsCLE) January 27, 2020
We lost a legend today.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 27, 2020
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
Moments of silence have been observed at basketball games across the US.
(With inputs from agencies.)