America found itself in shock last week when a helicopter carrying NBA star Kobe Bryant crashed near Calabasas, Calif. on Sunday, Jan. 26. Bryant was not the only one who did not survive the crash. Eight other passengers are reported to have died in the accident including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
The other victims of the crash were later identified by Los Angeles County Sheriff, Alex Villanueva, in a media conference as John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Kristinia Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, and pilot Ara Zobayan.
NPR [National Public Radio], CNN, and other news outlets report that the helicopter was bound for Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy located in Newbury Park, Calif. The others on board, including John Altobelli and Mauser, were local sports coaches.
The helicopter contained no black box, a type of data recorder that can gather technical information inflight along with audio recordings. This tragic crash is suspected to have been caused by extreme fog in the area.
On several occasions, Bryant had mentioned the reason behind his use of helicopters. Not only did he want to overcome the pains of notorious Los Angeles traffic, but he also wanted to make an effort to spend more time with his young daughters.
“I’d wind up missing like a school play because I was sitting in traffic,” Bryant said in a 2018 interview with Barstool Sports, referencing why he used helicopters to commute. “This thing just kept mounting. I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but not compromise family time. So, that’s when I looked into helicopters and being able to get down and back in 15 minutes … Every chance I get to see them and spend time with them — even if it’s 20 minutes in the car — I want that.”
TMZ was the first to announce Bryant’s death to the public, beating out the police. Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, was not notified by authorities until after the gossip site had already leaked the news. As other outlets rushed to report the story, misinformation was spread regarding the events and victims of the tragedy.
ABC reporter, Matt Gutman, initially wrote that all four of Bryant’s daughters had perished in the disaster, including an infant, which lead to other sites reporting the same. Gutman was later suspended.
ESPN reported that one of the victims had been former Lakers player, Rick Fox, which was also found to be false. These outlets faced major backlash on social media throughout the week after the faulty reporting came to light in the days after the crash.
Sheriff Villanueva is quoted as saying, “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand your loved one has perished and to learn about it from TMZ … That is just wholly inappropriate.”
Bryant and daughter Gianna are survived by wife and mother, Vanessa Laine Bryant, and children, Natalia, Bianka, and Capri, as well as a generation of basketball fans who will remember Bryant’s contributions to the sport as they continue to mourn.