Kobe Bryant's Fatal Helicopter Crash: Everything We Know

The world is still reeling after the loss of basketball great Kobe Bryant.

24 hours have barely passed since the world learned Kobe and daughter Gianna “Gigi” Maria-Onore Bryant and seven others died in a fatal helicopter crash. In the moments since, new information about the victims and the crash have emerged, even as fans, friends and family struggle to process these deaths. 

According to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, they’re currently in the process of investigating the crash and it’s cause, but assured they will do so diligently and promptly. 

To find out everything we know so far, read below. 

Who Was on the Helicopter?: In a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, it was confirmed Kobe and his daughter were joined by seven other people at the time of the accident.

Among the victims are John Altobelli, a baseball coach for Orange Coast College, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa. The Altobelli family leaves behind their son J.J. and daughter Alexis. In a statement to The Athletic, John’s brother Tony Altobelli shared, “He is going to be missed, not just at this campus but statewide at this level, and all the way through collegiate baseball.”

In addition, Sarah Chester and daughter Payton died in the crash. Payton was one of Gianna’s teammates and was described as having the “sweetest soul, the kindest,” by her uncle, Andy George. “It’s just so hard to believe they’re gone,” he told the OC Register.

Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant

Elsa/Getty Images

Girls basketball coach Christina Mauser also passed on Sunday. As the assistant basketball coach, Mauser frequently worked with Bryant and the Mamba Academy. Her husband, Matt Mauser shared on Facebook, “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.”

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“She was extraordinary… She was incredibly witty, funny, funny like nobody you’ve ever met,” Matt added in an interview with Today‘s Hoda Kotband Savannah Guthrie.

People are also paying their respects to the family of Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter. As a pilot he had over 20 years experience flying under his belt.

Where Were They Flying?: On Sunday morning Kobe attended church, moments before their helicopter took off from Orange County’s John Wayne Airport around 9 a.m. and headed north towards Kobe’s Mamba Academy in the Thousand Oaks area, where Gianna and her teammates were scheduled to play in the Mamba Cup. According to the L.A. Times, the Mamba Cup is a tournament that highlights boys’ and girls’ teams from fourth through eighth grade. That afternoon, Gianna, Payton and Alyssa were schedule to face off against the Fresno Lady Heat.

john altobelli

Orange Coast College via Twitter

As the helicopter traveled north, it passed over Boyle Heights, before briefly circling over Glendale due to air traffic control. After briefly circling Glendale, the aircraft continued along the I-5 north. Shortly after, the helicopter crashed into a hillside.

What Caused the Crash?: According to an aviation source, the sudden crash of the Sikorsky-76 is likely due to the dense fog in the area. “Typically crashes due to low visibility are a quick sudden crash because they didn’t see the ground and by the time they notice it’s too late to make movement and it just hits,” the source explains. 

It’s worth noting Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Josh Rubenstein said the department’s Air Support Division grounded its helicopters Sunday morning because “the weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying.”

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Nonetheless, the Washington Post reports the pilot was “approved for what’s known as special visual flight rules.” Essentially, the pilot was approved to fly lower than what is typically allowed in an attempt to avoid the dense fog and see the ground below. 

At the moment, the National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a team to the site and is working in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine the exact cause of the crash. They are also working with the assistance of the FBI, a common practice in circumstances like these. 

Who’s Spoken Out About the Crash?: It seems like everyone from Hollywood and the sports community has expressed their condolences for the star and the other victims of the crash. Notably, Magic JohnsonMichael JordanShaquille O’NealDerek Jeter and Dwyane Wade have shared their thoughts and prayers in the wake of his passing. 

“Today is one of the saddest days in my lifetime. It seems like a bad dream that you just want to wake up from. It’s a nightmare,” Wade shared to his Instagram. He added that he idolized the basketball great for much of his career and will carry on his legacy in any way possible. 

As previously noted, friends and family of the Altobelli, Mauser, Chester and Zobayan families have expressed their gratitude and profound sadness over Sunday’s event

Kobe Bryant


The Bryant family has yet to address the death of GiGi and Kobe. 

What Tributes Have Been Made in Kobe and the Others’ Honor?: In the hours and moments after Bryant’s death, fans across the world paid their respects in the only way they knew how. At the 2020 Grammys, there was a moment of silence. Meanwhile, outside, people descended upon the Staples Center to create a makeshift altar for the star, while others across the country witnessed national landmarks being lit in purple and gold. From New York’s Madison Square Garden to Los Angeles’ airport and city hall, there were tributes to the 41-year-old everywhere. 

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While Kobe’s life will always be remembered and his legacy carried on, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is inducting the late athlete into the hall of fame alongside the rest of the Class of 2020. 

In addition, the EPSN will be re-airing Bryant’s final game on Monday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m.

And on Monday, it was announced by the Orange Coast College Foundation they had established an Altobelli Family Memorial. Those wishing to donate can do so at the OCC Foundation website

Have They Announced a Memorial or Funeral Services?: There have been no formal announcements by any of the families affected by the accident.

Out of respect for the families and the Lakers, the upcoming Lakers vs Clippers game has been postponed. “The decision was made out of respect for the Lakers organization, which is deeply grieving the tragic loss of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash on Sunday,” the NBA announced.

Our thoughts go out to the Bryant, Altobelli, Mauser, Chester and Zobayan families.


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