Image: Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison

NBA legend, Kobe Bryant, and 13-year-old daughter die in helicopter crash

Kobe Bryant, aged 41, passed away in a helicopter crash on 26 January; leaving behind his wife and 3 daughters. Bryant was on his way to his own Mamba Sports Academy located in Newbury Park before the privately hired Sikorsky helicopter crashed just outside of Los Angeles; in Calabasas, California at 9.45 am. 

Bryant was accompanied by Gianna Bryant, Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, who also perished in the accident alongside two of her teammates, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, and their families. John Altobelli, a baseball coach was also onboard with his wife Keri, as well as Sarah Chester and Christina Mauser, assistant girls basketball coach. Gianna shared her father’s passion for basketball as she was expected to play in a game at the Mamba academy on the day whilst her father was expected to coach the team. The helicopter was seen descending downhill at a rapid speed which caused a bush fire on a hillside upon impact. The crash killed all 9 people who were onboard, including the pilot Ara Zobayan.

The weather conditions were described as unsuitable for flying

Zobayan was an experienced pilot and a loving adoptive father to his girlfriend’s 2 children. He was a certified flight instructor and Island Express’ ‘chief pilot’. Many other A-list celebrities have previously travelled on the same helicopter, on which he had over 1200 hours of flight, and have praised Zobayan as a skilful pilot with a ‘sterling safety record’. A previous pilot who has flown the helicopter before claims it was in perfect condition thus the crash couldn’t have been caused by a mechanical malfunction. 

Federal investigators have claimed Zobayan said he was trying to gain altitude to avoid a cloud layer caused by the foggy weather in Southern California that morning. The weather conditions were described as unsuitable for flying, subsequently even the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded all of their helicopters on the 26th. However, Kobe’s helicopter had still received ‘special approval to fly’. 

According to the American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) “The descent rate for the helicopter was over 2000 feet per minute so we know this was a high energy impact crash”. The investigation is expected to be concluded with a full final report in 12 to 18 months. 

Bryant instantly led the Lakers to 3 consecutive championships in the early 2000’s

Bryant was a professional American basketball player, played for the Lakers for 20 years, and is frequently described as a sporting legend by many. Bryant instantly led the Lakers to 3 consecutive championships in the early 2000’s, a few short years after he first started playing for the team, as well as later leading them to the NBA finals. His many notable achievements include winning 5 NBA championships, NBA Most Valuable Player award, 18 NBA All-star selections, 2 Olympic gold medals and achiever of the second highest number of points ever scored in an NBA game with 81 points.

After news of this tragic incident broke out, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced the Lakers game for the following day had been postponed allowing time for players and the public to grieve Kobe Bryant’s death. Many celebrities had a strong reaction to the tragic news. Fans and celebrities alike have been paying their respects from around the globe. 

My heart goes out to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy

Lebron James, whom also plays for the LA Lakers, poured his heart out on in an Instagram tribute as he remembered Bryant as his brother and wrote how he “heard your [Bryant’s] voice Sunday morning… never thought in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have”. James went on to say he was “heartbroken and devastated” and “My heart goes out to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy”. 

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, honoured her late daughter in an Instagram post, an illustration of Gianna Bryant holding a basketball in her father’s number 24 Lakers jersey. The mother of four has since said “We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe… and my beautiful, sweet Gianna”. 

Vanessa also expressed deep sympathy for the other families who lost their “loved ones” in the crash and sadly expressed how “there aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now”. She thanked “the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time” before asking for some “respect and privacy”. Vanessa ended her post by spreading word about the fund that had been set up by the Mamba Sports Foundation, donations from which would go towards the other families affected. 

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