Tragic news from California. Not even 24 hours after tweeting congratulations to Los Angeles Laker LeBron James for passing his NBA All-time scoring record, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, have died in a helicopter crash in fog-covered Calabasas, California Sunday morning.
Bryant, who was 41, was reportedly aboard his private helicopter with Gianna and seven other people, when it went down. A fire broke out and first responders stated that no one on board survived.
According to ESPN, Bryant was on his way to a travel basketball game with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant when the helicopter crashed, sources. Those aboard the helicopter also included another player and parent. Eyewitnesses also told TMZ that they heard the Sikorsky S-76 chopper engine sputtering before it went down.
According to CNN, the Bryant’s helicopter was operating under “special visual flight rules,” according to an air traffic control conversation with the pilot, captured by website LiveATC.net. An SVFR clearance allows a pilot to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for standard visual flight rules (VFR). The Burbank Airport control tower allowed the helicopter to proceed northeast, following the Interstate 5 highway, using the SVFR clearance.
“Maintain special VFR at or below 2,500” the pilot confirmed to the controller. Later in the flight, the pilot apparently asked for “flight following,” a service in which controllers are in regular contract with an aircraft.
The controller was recorded telling the pilot “2 echo X-ray, you’re still too low level for flight following at this time.” That could mean the helicopter was too low to be seen on air traffic control radar.
The effort to recover the victims’ bodies has started but could take days, given the terrain and the condition of the site, Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas said.
The city of Calabasas confirmed his death and crash in a tweet:
Apparently, Bryant used this means of transportation, dating back to his days as a player, to commute from Newport Beach, CA to the STAPLES Center in DTLA.
Others confirmed dead in the crash included Orange Coast College (OCC) baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and his daughter Alyssa, who was Gianna’s teammate.
Social Media shows outpouring of love and shock
News is still spreading about Bryant’s death and the Twitterverse, from fans to other athletes, including teammate Shaquille O’Neal, are devastated.
Kobe was selected in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac before the start of the 1996-97 season. It proved to be one of the most important trades in NBA history as Kobe, along with Shaquille O’Neal, would make the Lakers relevant again. He spent his entire NBA career on the Lakers and retired in 2016.
Just last night against the Philadelphia 76ers, where Bryant was born, LeBron James entered the game against the needing 18 points to eclipse Bryant’s career total of 33,643 points. It was a grind, as Los Angeles struggled to create offense most of the night, but James reached the milestone with a running layup in the third quarter.
Bryant tweeted his heart-felt congratulations to James immediately.
Bryant had turned into a producer as he won an Oscar in 2018 for his animated short film, Dear Basketball. He is survived by his wife Vanessa, and their three daughters — Natalia and Bianca and their newborn Capri.