There were no survivors in the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, rising basketball star Gianna.
Seven other people perished in the crash that took place Sunday (Jan. 26) morning in Calabasas, California.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said the rugged terrain complicated efforts to recover the remains, and he estimated it would take at least a couple of days to complete the task before official identifications can be made, the Associated Press reports.
“We will be doing our work thoroughly, quickly and with the utmost compassion,” Lucas said, the New York Times reports. “We’re doing everything we can to confirm identifications and give closure to the families involved.”
CNN reports that family members of some of the victims have confirmed their loved ones’ deaths.
Among those that perished in the crash were John Altobelli, 56, the head baseball coach at Southern California’s Orange Coast College (OCC); his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, Gianna’s basketball teammate; John’s brother, Tony Altobelli, said, CNN reports.
OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa confirmed that Gianna and Alyssa were teammates and told CNN that Altobelli would often fly with his daughter to attend the games.
"There were two sides to John," Tony Altobelli told CNN. "People saw him on the baseball field, he's gritty and tough as nails kind of guy, but the other side of him, he was one of the biggest-hearted people you'll meet in your life. He cared about his players, cared about his school."
According to an OCC Pirate Athletics news release, the 56-year-old coach, who was described as “legendary,” leaves behind a son and daughter.
"It's hard to put into words what this loss means to the college and the athletics department," OCC Athletics Director Jason Kehler said in a statement. "John was a tremendous coach and an even better friend. Beyond that, he was an amazing mentor to all of the students and athletes that he taught and coached. He treated them all like family and his impact will live on forever."
Coach “Alto” won more than 700 games and was named by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as the ABCA/Diamond National Coach of the Year, the OCC statement said.
Heartfelt messages about his death and the deaths of his wife and daughter poured in on Twitter.
Another one of Gianna’s teammates, Payton Chester, and her mother, Sarah, were also killed in the crash, the AP reports.
CNN reports that Todd Schmidt, principal at Harbor View Elementary School, where Payton once attended, also confirmed the news of her death, according to a Facebook post.
"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," Schmidt wrote.
Others took to Twitter to mourn the loss of the Chesters as well as the other victims.
Christina Mauser, a girls assistant basketball coach at a K-8 private school in Orange County, Harbor Day School, also died in the crash, CNN reports.
Her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote on Facebook, according to CNN, "My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much."
The Mayor of Costa Mesa, about 40 miles from Los Angeles, tweeted, “I just learned that our amazing Matt Mauser of Tiajuana Dogs lost his wife Christina in the crash. This devastating tragedy gets worse by the hour. So much pain for so many local families.”
On Monday (Jan. 27), Mr. Mauser called in to The Today Show to talk about his wife, whom he described as a “beautiful, smart, funny” person.
“It’s horrible,” he told co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie. “It’s horrible. I’ve got three small kids, and I’m trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom.”
HELICOPTER PILOT ARA ZOBAYAN
The helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan, was among the nine victims that died in Sunday’s crash.
His friends describe him as a “loving” and “incredible” man, the New York Daily News reports.
“The pilot flying Kobe and crew today was my friend Ara Zobayan (white shirt and tie). Many of my friends were actually friends with Ara and not just pilots. 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,” Jared Yochim wrote on Facebook.
“Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man,” Yochim added. “He was not your typical egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are. Ara was a man that always remained cool, calm and collected.”
Other tributes to Zobayan poured in.
(Photo: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)