Tributes Flood In For All Nine Victims Of Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant
The death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna is simply far too tragic for many to comprehend.
One of the most accomplished basketball players of all time, Kobe, 41, inspired generations of sports fans with his unwavering devotion, passion and tenacity.
Young Gianna, fondly nicknamed ‘Gigi’, was well on the way to following in his footsteps. Having inherited Kobe’s rare gifts, she had reportedly been ‘hell-bent’ on getting into the University of Connecticut, a school renowned for its women’s basketball prowess.
Both father and daughter were so full of talent and potential, and their shared enthusiasm for basketball shone brightly. That their lives, hopes and dreams could be snuffed out in such a sudden and shocking manner has shattered hearts across the globe.
To make matters even more tragic, Kobe and Gianna were not the only individuals to die in the crash, with seven others reported to have lost their lives.
The group had been flying to Thousand Oaks, California, for a basketball game, where Gianna was due to play. But in an unimaginably sad turn of events, the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, approximately 30 miles northwest of downtown LA.
Although police have yet to officially release the names of those on board, relatives of the deceased have already spoken out about their loss.
As reported by CNN, Orange Coast College (OCC) baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa are among the dead, as confirmed by John’s brother, Tony Altobelli.
Tony told CNN:
There were two sides to John. People saw him on the baseball field, he’s gritty and tough as nails kind of guy but the other side of him, he was one of the biggest-hearted people you’ll meet in your life. He cared about his players, cared about his school.
As per a press release from OCC, John is survived by son J.J. and daughter Lexi. His daughter Alyssa had been a teammate of Gianna’s at the Mamba Academy.
John helped led the OCC Pirates to the 2019 State Baseball Championship, and this off season was named as National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).
In a statement, OCC Athletics Director Jason Kehler said:
It’s hard to put into words what this loss means to the college and the athletics department.
John was a tremendous coach and an even better friend. Beyond that, he was an amazing mentor to all of the students and athletes that he taught and coached. He treated them all like family and his impact will live on forever.
Christina Mauser – who worked as a girls basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Orange County – is also reported to have passed away in the crash.
Posting on Facebook, Christina’s husband Matt Mauser wrote:
My kids and I are devastated. 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.
Friends have identified the deceased pilot of the helicopter as Ara Zobayan, a beloved member of the aviation community who taught aspiring helicopter pilots to fly.
Ara’s friend Jared Yochim has written the following tribute to ‘an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man’:
The pilot flying Kobe and crew today was my friend Ara Zobayan (white shirt and tie). Many of my friends were actually friends with Ara and not just pilots. This is the last photo I took with Ara celebrating our friend and fellow pilot Lorenzo Lamas’s 60th birthday. It would be the final beer we shared together.
Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man. He was not your typical egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are. Ara was a man that always remained cool, calm and collected. As more people that knew Ara open up about him, you’ll only hear words like professional, calculated and loving. He was always good for a laugh.
The loss is not mine, but a community really. Ara impacted so many people and only in a positive way. I’m sorry that you never got to meet him. You would’ve loved him, I promise.
Mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester – described as having been ‘full of mischief and laughter’ – have also died in the crash.
Harbor View Elementary School Principal has since made the following tribute to these ‘two gorgeous human beings’:
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.
While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken.
You were both the embodiment of #hvepride, and the world is just a little less without you both in it. May you both Rest In Peace and know the deep impact you had on our lives. You will be so sorely missed.
Many of the articles circulating today will be about Kobe and his enduring legacy. However, it’s crucial we remember and recognise each of the nine unique individuals who have been taken in such a cruel and senseless way.
Our thoughts are with the families of all those who died in the helicopter crash at this unimaginably sad time.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
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