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Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria Onore, are among the passengers killed Sunday, Jan. 26, in a helicopter crash north of Malibu, according to the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers and numerous other sources.
Bryant — who is widely considered one of the best to ever play basketball — spent his entire 20-year career with the Lakers, winning five championships with the team.
There were no survivors in the incident, which occurred just before 10 a.m. on a hillside in the 4200 block of Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas. The incident sparked a quarter-acre brush fire, and Fire Chief Daryl Osby said 15 apparatus and 56 personnel members responded to the incident.
John Altobelli, Orange Coast College’s head baseball coach, also was killed in the crash, along with his wife, Keri, and his youngest daughter, Alyssa Altobelli, according to a statement released by the college.
The Orange Coast College Foundation established an Altobelli Family Memorial (donations can be made to orangecoastcollege.edu/about_occ/Foundation/).
“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” Coast Athletic Director Jason Kehler stated. “He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none - he treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy.”
Also among the reported victims are: Christina Mauser, a youth basketball coach and mother of three; Sarah George Chester and her daughter, Payton Chester, who played for the Mamba Sports Academy team, and pilot Ara Zobayan, according to multiple sources.
The victims’ identities were ultimately released by the coroner on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a Jan. 26 press conference at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station that the manifest indicated there were nine people on board the helicopter, including the pilot.
“It would be entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name until the coroner has made the identification through their very deliberate process and they’ve made notifications to next of kin,” Villanueva said on Sunday. “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one was perished, and you learn about it through TMZ. That is just wholly inappropriate.”
Three bodies were recovered by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner on Sunday before efforts were suspended because of the darkness and safety concerns amid the rugged terrain.
During a press conference on Monday, Villanueva said that police were patrolling the site on horseback and on ATVs to ensure the public's safety.
"We want to make sure everyone stays where they should," he said.
Individuals reportedly had tried to access the area the prior evening. No arrests were made, but police now "have the tools" to arrest trespassers on the heels of an emergency ordinance by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, the sheriff said.
Jennifer Homendy, of the National Transportation Safety Board, said she was "very confident" that the NTSB would determine the cause of the crash, with investigators examining the weather as one of the factors. She urged those with photos of weather in the area of the crash around the time it occurred (9:47 a.m.) to send the images to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We take a broad look at everything around an investigation around an accident," she said. "We look at man, the machine and the environment."
Homendy also clarified that the FBI was aiding the NTSB per its memorandum of understanding. She stated that there was no criminal portion of the investigation.
The NTSB expects to be on scene for about five days before continuing its investigation remotely.
The National Basketball Players Association released a statement on the tragedy on Sunday, writing: “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 and prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family.”
Anyone with information on the crash can reach police by calling (818) 878-1808.