(Reuters) - As investigators probed the cause of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, profiles emerged of the victims who perished in the weekend tragedy near Los Angeles.
The following are victims of the crash:
Bryant, 41, was just an 18-year-old rookie when he wowed the sports world on his way to becoming a National Basketball Association legend. He played 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers, won five NBA championships, was named to the All-Star team 18 times and was twice the league’s Most Valuable Player. He also won gold medals twice as a member of the U.S. Olympic basketball team. In retirement, he coached his daughter’s AAU basketball team out of his Mamba Sports Academy training center in Thousand Oaks, California.
Often known by her nickname “Gigi,” the 13-year-old was the second oldest of Bryant’s four daughters. Both father and daughter took great pride in their love for the game of basketball. They were often photographed together, with the basketball great enthusiastically coaching Gianna Bryant’s team at his Mamba Academy. She had dreams of playing for the University of Connecticut basketball team and one day in the WNBA, her father told the Los Angeles Times last year. Kobe credited his daughter’s enthusiasm for the game with rekindling his interest in retirement.
A basketball teammate at Mamba Academy, Alyssa was the youngest daughter of John and Keri Altobelli. Bryant in the past used Instagram as a megaphone to praise Alyssa’s moves on the court, sharing video of Alyssa with his 16.7 million followers and noting “This is GREAT defense by ... Alyssa Altobelli.”
A beloved baseball coach at Orange Coast College, John Altobelli, 56, was known as Coach “Alto.” Athletics Director Jason Kehler in a news release called him an outstanding mentor to students and athletes, saying “He treated them all like family and his impact will live on forever.” He was about to start his 28th season coaching the Orange Coast team, having won his fourth state championship just last year, the college said. He would often fly with his daughter to attend her basketball games with Bryant’s team.
Keri Altobelli was a wife, mother and a big basketball fan when it came to her daugher’s team. She and John are survived by son J.J. Altobelli, a Red Sox scout, and daughter Alexis Altobelli.
Assistant coach and mother Christina Mauser, 38, gave her all to the girls basketball team at Harbor Day School, a private elementary school in Orange County. Her husband, Tijuana Dogs rock band member Matt Mauser, who also coached the team, wrote on Facebook: “My kids and I are devastated.” Her husband wrote on Facebook earlier this month that she and Kobe Bryant had participated together in a WNBA players clinic at Mamba Academy.
Mother of daughter Payton and son Riley, Sarah Chester was, like others aboard the helicopter, headed for Mamba Sports Academy with her daughter to cheer at a basketball tournament. Her son honored her on Instagram, writing “Rest in Peace to the most amazing Mother and sister.”
A tribute to Payton Chester, 13, was posted to Instagram by her brother, accompanied by a photograph of her snuggling with her mother. “I love you Pay Pay and Mom RIP,” wrote Riley Chester, ending his message with two red hearts.
Pilot Ara Zobayan held a commercial helicopter license and was a certified flight instructor, according to Federal Aviation Administration records cited by the New York Times. He was instrument rated, meaning he was qualified to fly in limited visibility conditions, according to records cited on Twitter by KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci, also a licensed pilot. “He taught aspiring heli pilots to fly and was very much loved in the aviation community,” Pascucci wrote on Twitter.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bill Berkrot