Los Angeles, January 27
NBA legend Kobe Bryant died on Sunday when a helicopter he was riding in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog, killing all nine people on board, including his teenage daughter, and plunging the sports world into mourning.
Bryant, 41, was travelling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when their Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a rugged hillside in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.
Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dozens of firefighters and paramedics battled across steep terrain to reach the flaming wreckage at the crash site but found no survivors, officials said.
The cause of the crash was unknown, and an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board could take months.
Bryant was known since his playing days to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid the Los Angeles area's notorious traffic.
"There were no survivors," county sheriff Alex Villanueva told a news conference, saying the flight manifest showed nine people on board. He declined to identify them.
The fire and debris field from the crash spread over a quarter-acre of steep terrain in the grass-covered foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
Others on board besides the pilot were a teammate from Bryant's daughter's basketball squad and a parent of the teammate, NBC News reported.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was also one of the victims, the Orange County Register said, citing assistant coach Ron La Ruffa.
Weather was likely to figure prominently in the crash investigation. Fog in the area was so bad that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopter fleet on Sunday morning, the Los Angeles Times and CNN reported.
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
The National Transportation Safety Board said an 18-strong team of investigators would be sent to California to probe the causes of the crash.
Bryant’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world, with basketball stars stunned by the news.
“Laker Nation, the game of basketball & our city, will never be the same without Kobe,” former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.