By Daniel Langhorne | LB Indy
Former Los Angeles Lakers players and Newport Coast resident Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died Sunday in a helicopter crash that killed nine people in Calabasas, multiple sources report.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby couldn’t confirm the reported IDs of the victims until the coroner releases a report and the next of kin are notified, he said during a press conference Sunday.
Matt Mauser, the lead vocalist from local band Tijuana Dogs, confirmed on social media on Sunday that his wife, Christina, also died in the helicopter crash. He asked that his family’s privacy be respected and thanked people for their well wishes.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was also reportedly among the victims on board.
A manifest indicates that there were nine people on board, LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
The city of Newport Beach wrote in a statement that the 41-year-old sports icon leaves behind an unmatched legacy of excellence, on and off the court, that will not be forgotten.
“Our city mourns the loss of a father, a husband, and one of our most giving residents,” Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill wrote in a statement. “He was a champion on and off the court. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bryant family during this devastating time.”
Councilwoman Joy Brenner reacted on social media, calling Bryant and his family a pillar of love, strength, and service.
“Our hearts are incredibly broken all over Newport Beach for the loss of Kobe, his daughter and members of other Newport Beach families,” Brenner wrote. “Hopefully they will inspire the rest of us to work even harder to be in loving service to all that is good and right.”
On Sunday evening, about two dozen people were visiting a makeshift memorial of Lakers balloons, Bryant jerseys, flowers, and a basketball inscribed with “8 Mamba 4-Ever.”
“The entire community is suffering a great loss. He loved the Newport Coast Community and we loved Kobe and his family,” said neighbor Julie Hermes.
Newport Coast residents Susan Pace and Smita Patel were among the community members who visited a memorial to Bryant on Sunday at Pelicans Drive and Pelican Hill Road.
“I think everyone is just trying to process and give as much support as they can,” Pace said.
Patel said her son was in the preschool class as one of Bryant’s daughters and fondly remembers him visiting their class to read to students.
She described her feelings around Bryant’s death as similar to those she experience after the airplane crash that killed John F. Kennedy Jr. Patel added that she often saw Bryant grabbing coffee at the local Starbucks or shopping at Pavilion’s.
“He’s part of the fabric of of our community,” Patel said.
Several years ago, Patel’s sister was involved in a traffic collision on Newport Coast Drive with her daughter in the back seat. Bryant was driving by the crash and stopped to ask if they were OK, Patel said.
Neighbors are planning a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. Sunday at Newport Ridge Community Park.
Newport Beach police and Newport Coast Community Association are patrolling the intersection.
Osby confirmed that authorities received a 911 call around 9:47 a.m. about a downed helicopter and a small brush fire. Officers had to hike in to the incident, he added.
An LAFD helicopter also flew to the crash site with firefighter paramedics on board, who were hoisted down to the crash site. They found no survivors, Osby said.
He could not comment on whether the foggy weather conditions played a factor in the crash.
After the call came in, officials were on the scene in about eight minutes and it took about an hour to extinguish the fire, Osby said. It took additional time to extinguish the blaze because the magnesium in the helicopter reacted with the oxygen as it burned, he explained.
The brush fire was about a quarter of an acre, which is also about the size of the debris field from the crash, Osby added.
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department contained the incident site and directed traffic in the area, Villanueva said. Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. FAA is already at the scene, he confirmed.
Bryant bought his first Newport Coast home in October 2001, according to Variety.
The 17-time All-Star, five-time NBA champion oversaw several brands related to the sports industry from the Monrovia Avenue offices of Kobe, Inc. In July 2014, the Newport Beach City Council approved the sale of the city-owned property in west Newport Beach for Kobe to use as his global headquarters.
Among his newer ventures was Kobe Studios, which he founded to tell stories through movies, books and “any area in which content is distributed and created,” Bryant told the Orange County Register.
The Newport Beach Historical Society noted on social media that Bryant “was the embodiment generosity and kindheartedness.”
“’He did so by promoting good will and peace around the world through his passion and sportsmanship,” NBHS officials wrote. “Our community mourns the loss of such a wonderful neighbor whose personality brightened, and whose actions cheered our town. Our hearts go out to his family in such a time of shock and sadness.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Sara Hall and Charles Weinberg contributed to this story.View Our User Comment Policy