Kobe Bryant and his daughter. A baseball coach. Teenage girls and their parents. A pilot. These were the 9 helicopter crash victims.

When a helicopter crashed in the foggy hills of Southern California on Sunday with basketball star Kobe Bryant on board, the tragedy inspired fans across the country to pay tribute.

They flocked as close as they could get to the smoldering crash site near Calabasas, wearing Los Angeles Lakers gear and with basketballs in hand. They built a shrine of candles and flowers outside Staples Center in Los Angeles, and they brought jerseys to lay outside the gymnasium named for Bryant at his high school outside Philadelphia.


But as the details of the crash became public — including the news that nine people on board had died — communities in Southern California began grieving in quieter ways for all of the lives that had also been cut short by the crash.

Authorities have not publicly identified the victims, but family and friends shared their grief in public announcements and posts on social media. The victims included a baseball coach, a pilot, and teenage girls and their parents.

Amid grief for one of the world’s best-known athletes, loved ones urged the world to remember the other lives that were “just as important.”

Kobe and Gianna Bryant

Kobe Bryant was on his way to coach his daughter’s basketball game.

Bryant, the retired Lakers basketball star, died in the helicopter crash, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Gianna Bryant and her father, Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Gianna Bryant and her father, Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America/TNS)

The helicopter was on its way from Orange County, where the Bryant family lives, to Bryant’s youth basketball academy northwest of Los Angeles.

Bryant, 41, retired in 2016 with five NBA championship rings. He gave himself the nickname the Black Mamba and was known for taking helicopter rides to games at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to avoid traffic and maximize time at home.

On Sunday, Bryant was on his way to his academy to coach Gianna, the second-oldest of his four daughters with his wife, Vanessa.

Gianna, who went by the nickname “Gigi,” was a budding basketball star in her own right and was “hellbent” on playing for the University of Connecticut, and one day, in the WNBA, her father told The Los Angeles Times last year.

John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli

A college baseball coach died, along with his wife and daughter.

John Altobelli, 56, a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, a junior college in Costa Mesa, was among those who died in the crash.

Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli.
Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli. (Orange Coast College)

“He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach,” the college’s athletic director, Jason Kehler, said in a statement. “The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none — he treated them like family.”

Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa also died in the crash, the college confirmed. Alyssa played on the same club team as Gianna Bryant, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Sarah and Payton Chester

A mother and daughter were remembered as ‘full of mischief and laughter.’

Sarah and Payton Chester, a mother and daughter who lived in Orange County, also died in the crash, family and friends said.

Todd Schmidt, the principal of the elementary school that Payton had attended in Corona del Mar, confirmed the deaths on Facebook. The Chesters, he said, were among the “amazing families” at the school: “engaged, supportive, encouraging, and full of mischief and laughter.”

“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important,” he wrote. “Their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken.”


On Instagram, Riley Chester said he had lost “the most amazing Mother and sister." He posted a series of photographs as a tribute, including one that showed his sister at a basketball gym, smiling and laughing with Bryant.

Christina Mauser

A basketball coach who was a ‘beautiful wife and mom’ was also killed.

Christina Mauser had been a basketball coach and physical education teacher at Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar and had coached Gianna Bryant to a school championship in the fall of 2017.

Her husband, Matthew Mauser, who was also a coach of that team, confirmed her death.

“She was incredibly witty — funny like nobody you’ve ever met,” Mauser, who used to teach at the school and is a singer in a band, said on the “Today” show early Monday.

He said Bryant had hired Mauser to coach for a basketball team at his Mamba Academy and called her the “Mother of Defense” because she was so good at teaching zone defense to the eighth grade players.

Mauser said he had cuddled in bed with his children as they grieved, and that his 11-year-old daughter had said it was comforting to know that other people were mourning as well.

“We watched SportsCenter for two seconds and everything was about how much everybody was mourning and hurting, and she said it was nice to know that everybody was hurting along with us,” he said. “And I know that sounds odd, but it still kind of helps.”

The Mausers coached the Harbor Day School eighth grade girls’ basketball team when it won its first championship in the fall of 2017, according to issues of Beacon, a biannual magazine run by the school. Gianna Bryant was one of two sixth graders on the team who were playing at a level two years ahead of their class, according to the publication.

Mauser had served as a coach, physical education teacher and eighth grade adviser for 11 years at the school, according to an announcement in the Summer 2018 edition of Beacon that said she and her husband were leaving the school.

“She added so much to our team,” Pamela Coleman, the physical education department chair, wrote at the time. “She was an exceptional teacher — organized, hardworking, conscientious, energetic, and imaginative.”

Fans Alex Fultz, Eddy Rivas and Rene Alfaro, left to right, stand near a memorial for Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash, on Jan. 26, 2020 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
Fans Alex Fultz, Eddy Rivas and Rene Alfaro, left to right, stand near a memorial for Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash, on Jan. 26, 2020 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Ara Zobayan

A pilot on board had at least 20 years of experience.

Ara Zobayan, a pilot, was also among those who died in the crash, according to friends and colleagues.

Zobayan, of Huntington Beach, was a commercial helicopter pilot and certified flight instructor, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. He had been flying aircraft in Southern California for 20 years, records showed. He worked as a helicopter instructor for Group 3 Aviation in Van Nuys, and the company has posted photos of numerous students he has trained to fly helicopters over the years.

One of Zobayan’s flight students, Darren Kemp, told The Los Angeles Times that his teacher had been Bryant’s private pilot.

“He doesn’t let anyone else fly him around but Ara,” he said.

As the news spread, friends and fellow pilots posted tributes online. One post by a friend, from a fellow pilot’s birthday celebration, showed a group of men, their arms around one another, with Zobayan smiling and dressed up in a collared shirt and tie.

“Who ever would’ve thought that would be our final beer together,” the friend wrote.

c.2020 The New York Times Company

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