Hopefully now the healing process can begin. Kobe Bryant’s death was officially confirmed by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner in a statement obtained by In Touch on Tuesday, January 28, two days after the 41-year-old NBA legend’s helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. The Special Operations Response Team (SORT) has been working tirelessly to “locate and recover the nine bodies from the extensive crash site,” and Bryant was one of four who have since been identified “through the use of fingerprints.”
Along with Bryant, the bodies of pilot Ara Zobayan, 50, former Tustin Memorial Academy teacher Sarah Chester, 46, and Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, 57, were identified, and their deaths were confirmed. “Investigators are still working on identifying the five remaining decedents,” the statement promised. “The Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner will provide immediate updates on the names of the decedents as soon as they are officially verified and their next of kin have been notified.”
The remaining five victims are believed to be Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa, girls basketball coach Christina Mauser, Chester’s daughter, Payton, and, Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Maria-Onore Bryant.
The days following the heartbreaking crash have been spent trying to piece together what happened. It’s unclear what exactly led the helicopter to crash on its journey from Orange County to Thousand Oaks, where the group was heading to Bryant’s Mamba Academy for basketball practice, but new information was released by NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy in a press conference on January 28.
“We know the helicopter was at 2,300 feet before it lost communication with Air Traffic Control,” she explained. “The descent rate of the helicopter was over 2,000 feet per minute. So we know this was a high energy impact crash.” Sadly, she believed the chopper only missed clearing the mountain by about 20 to 30 feet.
So far, an iPad and cellphone have been found at the crash site, though it’s unclear who they belonged to. The process of recovering the bodies was tough because of the mountainous terrain, but they were finally able to send some debris and evidence “to a secure location” via helicopter and trucks for further investigation. The NTSB plans to issue a preliminary report in 10 days, but it may take over a year to release a final report with information like the cause of the crash. Our hearts go out to the families in this tough time, and we hope the new information can begin bringing them closure.
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