Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and eight other people, including one of Bryant’s daughters, were killed Sunday when a helicopter crashed along a hillside in Calabasas north of Malibu.
Bryant was 41.
The crash, in the area of Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street, was called in at 9:47 a.m., according to a watch commander at the Los Angeles County Sheriff‘s Department Lost Hills/Malibu station.
The helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76B, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said. TMZ — which first reported Bryant’s death — said the helicopter belonged to Bryant, and that the group was en route to the Mamba Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks for a basketball practice when the crash occurred.
The helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m., records show. The crash occurred in foggy conditions.
There were no survivors, according to sheriff’s officials, who added that the crash triggered a small fire that was quickly put out. The other eight victims have not been officially identified, but sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Bryant was on his way to a basketball game with his 13-year- old daughter Gianna when the helicopter crashed. Another player and parent reportedly were also on board.
One of the victims was Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli, according to the OC Register, which cited OCC assistant baseball coach Ron La Ruffa.
Steve Freyer, Orange County Register/OC Varsity and Southern California News Group high school sports columnist and sportswriter, tweeted that people were “gathering at Orange Coast College for John Altobelli. OCC baseball coach. He was on that helicopter with #Kobe.”
The National Transportation Safety Board team was expected to arrive in California on Sunday evening to investigate the crash.
The helicopter company released the following statement:
“We extend our sincerest condolences to all those affected by today’s Sikorsky S-76B accident in Calabasas, California. We have been in contact with the NTSB and stand ready to provide assistance and support to the investigative authorities and our customer.”
As the news spread, Lakers fans began gathering outside Staples Center, prompting the Los Angeles Police Department to remind the public that “the area around the Staples Center is closed due to the Grammys & fans will not be able to access the arena.”
One fan told KTLA, “I didn’t know what else to do, so I came here.”
Meanwhile, a slew of famous names from sports, entertainment and politics quickly reacted to Bryant’s death.
“Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed, and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“He will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes. This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe’s entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief.”
“We mourn the tragic and untimely death of a California icon and basketball legend, Kobe Bryant,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.”In his 20- year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, he made history with raw talent and unparalleled dedication that raised the bar and paved the way for a newer generation of players.
“Despite winning five NBA championships and two gold Olympic medals, and achieving countless accolades in the athletics world, he also helped improve the lives of youth and families through the Kobe Bryant and Vanessa Bryant Foundation, and was an outspoken advocate for combating homelessness through partnerships with organizations such as My Friend’s Place and Step Up on Second.
“Our deepest condolences go to his wife, family, colleagues, friends and fans. He was taken too soon and he will be missed.”
Shaquille O’Neal, who teamed with Bryant for their first three NBA championships, tweeted: “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant. I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW”
Former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade tweeted: “Nooooooooooo God please No!”
Former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce — who battled Kobe twice in the NBA Finals — tweeted: “This is not real right now.”
Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner of the Los Angeles Times, tweeted: “Heartbroken and numb. Please pray for Vanessa and the children. Rest In Peace Kobe. We will all miss you so much.”
Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co., called Bryant “`a giant in sports and a person so full of life. Terrible news and so hard to process….”
Entertainer Cher tweeted: “My heart goes out to Kobe’s family, friends, fans. It’s so hard to deal with the death of a great star because we feel as if we knew them personally. Kobe Bryant was a great athlete and all of America will feel his loss. The world has lost a bright light.”
President Donald Trump also weighed in Sunday, tweeting that Bryant’s death was “terrible news!”
And former President Barack Obama tweeted: “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.”
Bryant lived in Newport Beach, where city officials sent out the following statement Sunday: “It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Newport Beach resident and international sports legend Kobe Bryant. Our prayers are with his family, friends, colleagues and neighbors as our community grieves this sudden and devastating loss. Kobe leaves behind an unmatched legacy of excellence, on and off the court, that will not be forgotten.”
Bryant, one of the NBA’s all-time greats, last tweeted himself Saturday night, congratulating current Lakers superstar LeBron James on passing Bryant for third place on the league’s all-time scoring list. Bryant was in Philadelphia on Saturday night to watch the Lakers play the 76ers.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother,” the tweet said.
Former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the NBA’s all-time leading scorer — said “Most people will remember Kobe as the magnificent athlete who inspired a whole generation of basketball players. But I will always remember him as a man who was much more than an athlete.”
The NBA Players Association tweeted: “We are stunned and devastated by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant. Words cannot express his impact on our players, the NBA and the game of basketball. This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts are quite simply broken. We send love an prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family.”
Steve Ballmer, chairman of the Los Angeles Clippers, said: “The Clippers mourn the sudden and devastating loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Kobe, an icon and an institution in this city and this sport, inspired teammates and opponents alike with his commitment, determination and drive. Kobe was a singular figure who left an indelible mark on the community and the world. His family, friends and the Lakers organization are in our thoughts and prayers. We will miss him.”
Kobe and his wife Vanessa, who wed in 2001, have four daughters, Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, Bianca, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Bryant, the son of former NBA star Joe “Jellybean” Bryant — was drafted by the Lakers straight out of his Philadelphia-area high school in 1996. He led the Lakers to five NBA championships and was a perennial All-Star.
News of his death spread like wildfire across the Southland and the globe. At a Torrance restaurant without any televisions, the news still raced among patrons sitting at tables and standing in cashier lines. A young girl holding a cell phone broke the news to her mother. Total strangers shared the shocking news with each other, with many of them responding in disbelief, quickly reaching for their phones to search for information.
At a nearby sports bar, the typically raucous roar of conversation gave way to eerie quiet as the news flashed on TV screens. Customers and employees alike stopped to listen to the breaking news.
Apartment dwellers leaned from upstairs balconies to share the news with neighbors standing outside below.
In the aisle of a grocery store, a group of strangers gathered around to watch a news report on one shopper’s cell phone.
“I just can’t believe it,” one woman muttered as she watched, holding her young daughter against her hip.
Updated at 3:40 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020
— City News Service