CALABASAS—Former NBA star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 26 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. The athlete was just one of five people killed in the crash. TMZ was first to report that Byrant’s 13 year-old daughter, Gianna Maria Onore was killed in the crash. The basketball legend was traveling in his private helicopter to the Mamba Academy when the crash transpired. Others killed in the crash included a teammate of Bryant’s daughter, a parent and the pilot of the helicopter.
Earlier reports surfaced on social media claiming that former NBA star Rick Fox was killed in the crash, but those claims have been proven to be false. Officials from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Lost Hills Station were called to the scene of Las Virgenes Road and Willow Green Street, shortly after 10 a.m.
Kobe won a total of 5 NBA Championships during his career, where he played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years. He was surpassed as the No.3 leading scorers in the NBA on Saturday, January 25, when Lakers star LeBron James broke that record. Fans have already gathered outside of the Staples Center to start a memorial to pay tribute to the basketball star. He is an 18-time All-Star. He was known by the nickname ‘Black Mamba’ and scored a total of 81 points during one basketball game.
Bryant was married to Vanessa Bryant, with whom he has four daughters. Vanessa was not on the helicopter that crashed. Bryant won an Academy Award in 2018 for Best Animated Short “Dear Basketball.” He made headlines in 2003 when he was arrested for sexual assault in Eagle, Colorado by a hotel employee, who accused Bryant of raping her. The criminal case was against the basketball star was dismissed, but a civil suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
He is the son of former NBA star Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant. He was drafted right out of high school in 1996 where he was the No. 13 pick by the Charlotte Hornets, but later traded to the Lakers in July 1996. Bryant retired from the NBA in 2016.
In 2003, the athlete was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel employee at The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Eagle, Colorado. The victim indicated that Bryant raped her in his hotel room. Bryant admitted to having sex with the employee, but denied raping her. Criminal charges against Bryant were dropped after the victim refused to testify. The case was later settled in criminal court where the settlement was not made public. Bryant publicly apologized to the victim where he stated:
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”
Bryant’s former teammate Shaquille O’Neal tweeted “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department held a press conference Sunday afternoon where more details about the cause of the crash were discussed. LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby who indicated that at 9:47 a.m. a 911 call was received a helicopter down and a brush fire. Firefighters discovered a quarter acre brush fire. Hikers hiked to the scene of the crash to extinguish the flames from the brush fire and all survivors on board were determined perished.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva indicated that 9 people were on the aircraft, not 5 as previously reported earlier in the day. Others killed in the crash included Orange Coast College baseball coach Tony Altobelli, 56, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa. Also killed during the crash was Christina Mauser, an assistant basketball coach at a private school in Orange County. Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton were also aboard the helicopter that crashed. Also killed in the crash was pilot Ara Zobayan, 50. The bodies of all victims were cleared from the site and identified on Wednesday, Janaury 29.
Officials from the National Traffic Safety Board indicated that the pilot was operating the Sikorsky S-76B where fog took over the region shortly after takeoff where things were clear. The pilot flew at a high altitude to avoid colliding into mountains in the area, but missed the hillside by just 20 to 30 feet. Debris from the crash has been collected and is currently being investigated by NTSB, Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI. There was no black box on board, but an iPad was recovered by investigators. Officials still have not determined an exact cause of the crash.