Tributes have poured in for the seven other victims killed alongside Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in Sunday’s tragic helicopter crash in California.
Among those killed were sports coaches, parents and teenage peers of Bryant’s basketball star daughter – the group are understood to have been travelling to Bryant’s Mamba Academy for a practice session when the helicopter crashed in Calabasas.
John Altobelli, a baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife Keri and their teen daughter Alyssa were killed; as well as a girls’ basketball coach at Bryant’s academy Christina Mauser.
Sarah Chester and her teen daughter Payton were also killed when the Sikorsky S-76 flew into the hillside and burst into flames.
Pilot Ara Zobayan was also killed. The cause of the crash is under investigation but the control tower at Burbank Airport was contacted by the pilot shortly before 10am local time.
At around 9.40am the helicopter turned south, towards a mountainous area, flight tracker data shows. Five minutes later it hit the hillside at 1,700 feet, near the home of Kourtney Kardashian.
Jared Yochim, a friend of the pilot, penned a heartfelt tribute on Facebook, writing: ‘The pilot flying Kobe and crew today was my friend Ara Zobayan. 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. Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man.
‘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. As more people that knew Ara open up about him, you’ll only hear words like professional, calculated and loving.
‘He was always good for a laugh. The loss is not mine, but a community really. Ara impacted so many people and only in a positive way. I’m sorry that you never got to meet him. You would’ve loved him, I promise.’
According to official records, Zobayan was a commercial helicopter pilot, certified flight instructor and had been flying in the Southern California area for 20 years.
One of his former pupils Darren Kemp described Zobayan as Bryant’s favorite, ‘He doesn’t let anyone else fly him around but Ara,’ Kemp told The Los Angeles Times
Tributes also poured out for the 56-year-old college baseball coach Altobelli and his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, who played on the same team as Gianna Bryant.
Orange Coast College assistant coach Ron La Ruffa told CNN: ‘It was something John routinely did, flying up with Kobe to attend games with his daughter.’
Altobelli had worked at the community college for 27 seasons and last year won the state championship. He was named coach of the year after leading the team to more than 700 victories in four state titles.
Among players he coached during his stellar career were MLB stars Jeff McNeil, of the New York Mets, and Donnie Murphy, formerly of the Chicago Cubs and the Florida/Miami Marlins. (Photos and Story by Mail Online)