NBA legend Kobe Bryant died on Sunday, Jan. 26, in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles County. He was 41.
The retired Los Angeles Lakers star, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were on the helicopter when it crashed. The incident occurred just before 10 a.m. in foggy conditions and ignited a brush fire in the hills above Calabasas.
L.A. County Fire Dept. Chief Daryl L. Osby said during a locally televised press briefing that the fire department received a 911 call reporting the crash and brush fire at 9:47 a.m.
“There was a debris field in steep terrain,” Osby explained. “Our firefighters hiked in to extinguish the fire.”
Initial reports said up to five people had died, but L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced during the briefing that nine people were on board the aircraft. There were no survivors.
Hours later, at an 8 p.m. briefing, officials said they were having difficulty recovering the bodies from the crash site.
“Given the terrain and the condition of the site, we expect that it will take us at least a couple of days for the recovery,” stated Dr. Jonathan Lucas, chief medical examiner for L.A. County.
Lucas promised that the recovery effort would be thorough and compassionate. He declined to identify any of the victims. However, multiple media outlets confirmed that Bryant and his daughter were among the dead.
Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif. confirmed that baseball coach John Altobelli was also on the helicopter and died in the crash.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli,” the school said in a statement. “He was a coach, a colleague, a mentor and a friend at OCC for 27 years.”
The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will take the lead on the investigation. The helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76B, said FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer. The aircraft departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m., records show.
Bryant was born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia. He made his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1996-1997 season, and won five NBA championships with the team. He announced his retirement in November 2015.
After leaving the NBA , he launched a career in Hollywood and won an Oscar in 2018 for the animated short film Dear Basketball.
Earlier this month, Bryant used his star power to help promote the criminal justice film Just Mercy, by hosting an industry screening and Q&A in Baldwin Hills, Calif.
Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and daughters – Natalia, Bianca and Capri.