LOS ANGELES, Calif. (WTNH) — Basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others died in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas area of Los Angeles on Sunday.
According to police, they received a call at 9:47 a.m. for a helicopter crash and brush fire. All nine occupants — the pilot and eight passengers — of the helicopter were confirmed dead on-scene.
The victims include former Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, 13. Bryant was 41.
Bryant was an LA Laker for 20 seasons – his entire NBA career. He led all of the NBA in scoring in 2 of his 20 seasons. He was the league’s most valuable player in 2008. He scored more than 33,000 points in his career, which puts him 4th on the all-time player list, just ahead of Michael Jordan.
In what would be his final tweet only hours before his death, Bryant tweeted congratulations to LeBron James for breaking his all-time scoring record Saturday night.
Sources told ESPN that Bryant and Gianna were on the way to one of Gianna’s basketball team’s games when the chopper crashed. Those aboard included a local college baseball coach and his wife and daughter.
Bryant and Gianna were in Connecticut only last year at UConn basketball’s Senior Day game in March.
WEB EXTRA: Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant attend UConn women’s basketball game March 2019
ABC reports the NTSB says the Sikorsky S-76 crashed Sunday morning local time under unknown circumstances. The S-76 has a good safety record overall. It’s a close relative of the Black hawk helicopter that’s the workhorse of the military.
Sikorsky releasing a statement following the crash:
“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.”– Sikorsky Aircraft
WEB EXTRA: The National Transportation Safety Board gives an update on the investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and 8 others
In a press conference Sunday afternoon, LA County Sheriff’s Department said their response included over 50 first-responders including fire, police, and EMT.
They did a search of the area – about a quarter-mile – for survivors, but found all nine individuals involved in the crash perished.
In addition to Bryant and his daughter, the victims were mainly teammates of Gianna along with their family members.
John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa were among the other passengers. Altobelli was a college baseball coach who also coached in the Cape Cod league – managing, among others, Yankees star Aaron Judge.
Christina Mauser, another victim of the crash, was a basketball coach at Harbor Day School – the school attended by Gianna Bryant.
Also among the victims of the crash were Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton – another member of Gianna’s basketball team.
The final victim in the crash was the pilot, identified as Ara Zobayan. According to the FAA, Zobayan received his commercial pilot certificate in 2007.
The crash investigation is now turning to the weather, and questions about if Bryant’s helicopter should have been flying at all in those foggy conditions.
The LA County Sheriff says his own department’s helicopters were grounded Sunday morning due to extreme fog. But Kobe Bryant’s helicopter flew right into those conditions, and then crashed in a residential neighborhood of Calabasas.
Bryant was well known around LA for using that helicopter to avoid all that traffic. He would take it to games and even let teammates use it to get to doctors appointments.