(AP) – Authorities say the veteran pilot of a helicopter that crashed near Los Angeles, killing Kobe Bryant and eight others, tried to avoid fog so heavy it grounded police choppers.
Nine people, including NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant, were killed in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. (Source: CNN)
The helicopter was ferrying Bryant from Orange County to Ventura County on Sunday when it smashed into a Calabasas hillside at nearly 200 mph.
The death of the retired NBA superstar shocked fans around the world. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
But Jennifer Homendy of the NTSB says the pilot had tried to climb to avoid a cloud layer. Experts say he may have become disoriented.
Coroner’s officials are working to recover victims’ remains from the hillside outside Los Angeles where the helicopter crashed.
The foggy conditions were considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.
A federal investigator says the pilot told air traffic controllers in his last message that he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer before the aircraft plunged more than 1,000 feet into a hillside. The helicopter crashed Sunday morning after requesting special permission to fly through heavy fog.
Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board says investigators went to the scene Monday to collect evidence.
About 20 investigators were on the scene of the crash that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed everyone aboard.
The county medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said investigators will try to make identifications of the victims as quickly as possible.
While investigators and coroner’s personnel were working on the scene, Time Magazine released a new cover commemorating Bryant. It shows the basketball legend from the back, holding a ball and taking a final bow.
Gianna Bryant, Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, was also killed in the crash. Her dad called her Mambacita. He was Mamba, and she was going to be basketball’s female version of him. She was going to play at Connecticut and head to the WNBA. Her promising life came to a shocking, sudden and sad end Sunday. Everyone who saw her play said she was a promising young star, whose play and tenacity looked a lot like that of her famous father.
Longtime Orange Coast College baseball coach 56-year-old John Altobelli was also killed in the helicopter crash, according to his brother. He died along with his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa. Altobelli’s daughter was on the same basketball team as Gianna Bryant.
Altobelli spent 27 seasons as coach at the community college in Costa Mesa, California. He also coached more than a dozen future major leaguers in the Cape Cod Baseball League for elite college prospects, including All-Stars Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees and Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley also tweeted that Christina Mauser, a girls basketball coach at a nearby private elementary school, died in the crash. Mauser’s husband, Matt Mauser, wrote in a Facebook post: “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”
Mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester were both killed in the crash. Payton was on the same basketball team as Gianna Bryant and Alyssa Altobelli.
The helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan, was an instrument-certified pilot and instructor with 13 years of commercial flying experience, according to CNN. He also died in the crash.
Remembering, honoring “Black Mamba”
The accident unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers around the country who mourned Bryant’s sudden loss. The basketball superstar won five NBA titles during a 20-year playing career spent entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired in 2016 as the league’s No. 3 all-time scorer and remained there until Lakers forward LeBron James passed him on Saturday.
James posted a heartfelt response to Bryant and Gianna’s deaths Monday night on Instagram.
“I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!!” James wrote. “I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation… Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me!”
Some fans hope to honor the basketball superstar through a Change.org petition. They’re asking the NBA to modify their logo from a silhouette of Jerry West to one of Bryant. The petition has been signed over 500,000 times.
The NBA postponed the game scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 28 between the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers. The game will be rescheduled at a later date.
Since the basketball superstar’s death in a weekend helicopter crash, thousands have streamed into a plaza just outside Los Angeles’ Staples Center.
It was at Staples that Kobe Bryant played for almost all of his 20 seasons with the Lakers. And now it’s where fans have come to shed tears, exchange hugs, leave candles, jerseys and other memorabilia, and recall joyful times.
Louie Guerrero brought his 2-year-old daughter, decked out in her own little Lakers uniform. He scribbled “We love you Kobe” on one of his Lakers basketball sneakers and left it behind.
Kobe Bryant’s death was felt hard in Philadelphia.
Bryant was a star player who won a state championship at Lower Merion High School. His loyalty toward the school and coach Gregg Downer never wavered and the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium at the Philadelphia suburb school’s campus was dedicated in 2010.
But Philly fans never forgave him for critical comments when the Los Angeles Lakers played the 76ers for the 2001 NBA championship.
Bryant proclaimed he was “coming to Philly to cut their hearts out.” The boos were long and loud when NBA Commissioner David Stern presented Bryant with the 2002 All-Star Game trophy in Philadelphia.
At the Australian Open Monday, Nick Kyrgios wore a Lakers No. 8 jersey to honor Kobe Bryant ahead of a fourth-round match against Rafael Nadal.
The 15-year-old Coco Gauff had Bryant’s numbers 8 and 24, along with the inscription “Mamba Mentality,” on her shoes in a doubles match at Melbourne Park.
Bryant will be mourned for an entire week in Italy, where he lived between the ages of 6 and 13 while his father played for several teams in the country. The Italian basketball federation says it has ordered a minute’s silence to be observed for all games “in every category for the entire week.”
The federation says “it’s a small but heartfelt and deserved gesture to honor the life and memory of Kobe Bryant, an absolute champion who always had Italy in his heart. Kobe was and will always be linked to our country.”
Bryant returned to Pennsylvania for high school but spoke fluent Italian and often said it would be a “dream” to play in the country.
Bryant was also a hugely popular figure in Asia, no more so than in China where basketball rivals soccer as the most popular sport. However, his death comes at an awkward time between the country and the league.
China’s national broadcaster pulled all NBA games off the air in October after the Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.
Still, Chinese fans offered their condolences and tributes online, while the presidents of Taiwan and the Philippines also offered their praise for his contributions and inspiration.
In Japan, the head of the association marketing Kobe beef, the succulent meat that reportedly inspired Kobe’s name, said they always “felt a closeness with him.”
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