The 9 Victims of the Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant


A baseball coach. A pilot. Teenage girls and their parents. Here is what we know so far about those on board.

When a helicopter crashed in the foggy hills of Southern California on Sunday with the basketball star Kobe Bryant on board, the tragedy inspired fans across the country to pay tribute.

They flocked as close as they could get to the smoldering crash site near Calabasas, Calif., wearing Lakers gear and with basketballs in hand. They built a shrine of candles and flowers outside Staples Center in Los Angeles, and they brought jerseys to lay outside the gymnasium named for Mr. Bryant at his high school outside Philadelphia.

But as the details of the crash became public — including the news that nine people on board had died — communities in Southern California began grieving in quieter ways for all of the lives that had also been cut short by the crash.

The authorities have not publicly identified the victims, but family and friends shared their grief in public announcements and posts on social media. The victims included a baseball coach, a pilot, and teenage girls and their parents.

Amid grief for one of the world’s best-known athletes, loved ones urged the world to remember the other lives that were “just as important.”

Kobe Bryant was on his way to coach his daughter’s basketball game.
Mr. Bryant, the retired Los Angeles Lakers basketball star, died in the helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

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The helicopter was on its way from Orange County, Calif., where the Bryant family lives, to Mr. Bryant’s youth basketball academy northwest of Los Angeles.

Mr. Bryant, 41, retired in 2016 with five N.B.A. championship rings. He gave himself the nickname the Black Mamba, and was known for taking helicopter rides to games at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to avoid traffic and maximize time at home.

On Sunday, Mr. Bryant was on his way to his academy to coach Gianna, the second-oldest of his four daughters with his wife, Vanessa.

Gianna, who went by the nickname “Gigi,” was a budding basketball star in her own right and was “hellbent” on playing for the University of Connecticut, and one day, in the W.N.B.A., her father told The Los Angeles Times last year.

A college baseball coach died, along with his wife and daughter.
John Altobelli, 56, a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, a junior college in Costa Mesa, Calif., was among those who died in the crash.

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“He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach,” the college’s athletic director, Jason Kehler, said in a statement. “The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none — he treated them like family.”

Mr. Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa also died in the crash, the college confirmed. Alyssa played on the same club team as Gianna Bryant, The Los Angeles Times reported.

A mother and daughter were remembered as ‘full of mischief and laughter.’
Sarah and Payton Chester, a mother and daughter who lived in Orange County, also died in the crash, family and friends said.

Todd Schmidt, the principal of the elementary school that Payton had attended in Corona del Mar, Calif., confirmed the deaths on Facebook. The Chesters, he said, were among the “amazing families” at the school: “engaged, supportive, encouraging, and full of mischief and laughter.”

“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important,” he wrote. “Their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken.”

On Instagram, Riley Chester said he had lost “the most amazing Mother and sister.” He posted a series of photographs as a tribute, including one that showed his sister at a basketball gym, smiling and laughing with Mr. Bryant.

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A basketball coach who was a ‘beautiful wife and mom’ was also killed.
Christina Mauser had been a basketball coach and physical education teacher at Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar, Calif., and had coached Gianna Bryant to a school championship in the fall of 2017.

Her husband, Matthew Mauser, who was also a coach of that team, confirmed her death on Facebook, writing that he and his children were “devastated.”

“We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash,” wrote Mr. Mauser, who used to teach at the school and is a singer in a band. “Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much.”

The Mausers coached the eighth grade girls’ basketball team when it won its first championship in the fall of 2017, according to issues of Beacon, a biannual magazine run by the school. Gianna Bryant was one of two sixth graders on the team who were playing at a level two years ahead of their class, according to the publication.

Ms. Mauser had served as a coach, physical education teacher and eighth grade adviser for 11 years at the school, according to an announcement in the Summer 2018 edition of Beacon that said she and her husband were leaving the school.

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“She added so much to our team,” Pam Coleman, the physical education department chair, wrote at the time. “She was an exceptional teacher — organized, hardworking, conscientious, energetic, and imaginative.”

A pilot on board had at least 20 years of experience.
Ara Zobayan, a pilot, was also among those who died in the crash, according to friends and colleagues.

Mr. Zobayan, of Huntington Beach, Calif., was a commercial helicopter pilot and certified flight instructor, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. He had been flying aircraft in Southern California for 20 years, records showed. He worked as a helicopter instructor for Group 3 Aviation in Van Nuys, and the company has posted photos of numerous students he has trained to fly helicopters over the years.

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Bless Your Heart!

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