The nation mourns a legend today after former Lakers player Kobe Bryant died alongside eight others in a horrific helicopter crash on Sunday.
Among those killed were the NBA star’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna, sports coaches, parents, and teen peers of Gianna.
The group was reportedly traveling to a practice session at Bryant’s Mamba Academy when the aircraft crashed in Calabasas, California.
Tributes have poured in across the country in honor of those whose lives were lost.
Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli and his wife Keri died in the crash along with their teen daughter Alyssa.
Alyssa played on the basketball team with Gianna at the Mamba Academy.
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was also a casualty of the crash.
A friend of Ara, Jared Yochim, wrote an emotional tribute to him on Facebook, saying, “This is the last photo I took with Ara celebrating our friend and fellow pilot Lorenzo Lamas’s 60th birthday. It would be the final beer we shared together. Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man.”
Yochim explained that Ara was not your typical “egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are.” Rather he was a calm, cool and collected man who was only ever described as “professional, calculated and loving.” In fact, according to former pupil Darren Kemp, Ara was the only pilot that Bryant entrusted to fly him around.
Another victim, Christina Mauser, was the girls’ basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach where Gianna was a student.
Personally selected by Bryant to coach his daughter, Mauser was a standout in her field, coaching Gianna to their school’s championship victory back in 2017.
Christina was married to Matt Mauser and had two children with him.
Matt posted a heart-wrenching wedding photo on Instagram following the fatal crash, writing ‘Forever & Always my Love.’
For mother and daughter duo Sarah and Payton Chester, the principal of Harbor View Elementary posted a heartfelt tribute.
“As folks mourn the loss of Kobe Bryant, I want to take a moment to remember two gorgeous human beings who were with him, Sarah and Payton Chester,” wrote principal Todd Schmidt. “As a principal, we work with some amazing families…the Chesters were one of those…engaged, supportive, encouraging, and full of mischief and laughter…and they had the best kiddos!”
“This family made such a huge impact at Harbor View,” Schmidt continued. “They were genuine, kind-hearted, and caring to the staff, to other families…and yes, especially to me. While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken.”
The cause for the helicopter crash is still under investigation. Please join us in praying for the families affected by this awful tragedy.