The former L.A. Lakers player was traveling with eight other people on his private helicopter when a fire reportedly broke out. Fire brigade and paramedics attended the scene but authorities said in a press conference that nine people are confirmed dead.
It was later reported that his daughter Gianna, 13, died alongside him in the crash. Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Kerri, and daughter Alyssa, were also killed in the crash, Altobelli’s brother Tony told CNN.
Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley also tweeted that girls basketball coach Christina Mauser, who’s married to Tijuana Dogs singer Matt Mauser, also died. “This devastating tragedy gets worse by the hour. So much pain for so many local families. Our hearts are broken & grieving for the families impacted,” she wrote.
It’s believed that Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, was not on board.
KTLA reported that a helicopter crashed on a hillside in the Calabasas area and burst into flames, killing everyone on board on Sunday at about 10 a.m. Witnesses reported seeing the aircraft going down quickly and then slamming into the ground, Fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda said.
“I heard the plane splutter and then a boom,” L.A. Times reporter Richard Winton tweeted, adding that the mountains were fogged in.
The crash sparked a brush fire, which made it difficult for first responders to get to the aircraft, a watch commander for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told the Times.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were responding to the scene.
The Los Angeles Country Medical Examiner-Coroner said in a press release on Sunday night that “when authorities arrived at the crash site, they found no survivors in the fiery helicopter wreckage.” The coroner added that the office’s Special Operations Response Team was recovering the bodies and investigators were working on confirming their identities.
The Philadelphia-born athlete, who was the son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, entered the NBA directly from high school and played his entire 20-year career for the Lakers.
Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Kobe was an 18-time All-Star and won five NBA championships with the Lakers. At 34, he became the youngest player in history to reach 30,000 career points. He retired from the game after the 2015-16 season.
In 2018, he won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball, which he wrote and narrated. The film was based on a letter he wrote to The Players’ Tribune on November 29, 2015, announcing his retirement.
He is survived by his wife, Vanessa, who he married in 2001, and three daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
In March 2019, Kobe spoke to Extra about trying for a baby boy next with Vanessa.
“I think she wants a boy more than I do,” he said. “I love having girls — I’m super, super excited about that. She is as well. She wanted a boy so he can be mama’s boy forever — that sort of thing. We’ll see if I can deliver. I don’t know.”