Lak­ers great Kobe dies in crash

Daugh­ter also among nine vic­tims in Cal­abasas he­li­copter in­ci­dent

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - By STE­FANIE DAZIO

CAL­ABASAS — NBA le­gend Kobe Bryant, his daugh­ter and seven oth­ers were killed Sun­day when their he­li­copter plunged into a steep hill­side in dense morn­ing fog in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, his sud­den death at age 41 touch­ing off an out­pour­ing of grief for a star whose celebrity tran­scended bas­ket­ball.

The chop­per went down in Cal­abasas. Au­thor­i­ties said nine peo­ple were aboard and pre­sumed dead. Bryant, an all-time bas­ket­ball great who spent his en­tire 20-year ca­reer with the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, was among the vic­tims, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion told The As­so­ci­ated

Press.

Bryant’s 13-year-old daugh­ter, Gianna, also was killed, a dif­fer­ent per­son fa­mil­iar with the case said.

Los An­ge­les County Sher­iff Alex Vil­lanueva would not con­firm the iden­ti­ties of the vic­tims Sun­day pend­ing of­fi­cial word from the coro­ner.

“God bless their souls,” Vil­lanueva said at a news con­fer­ence.

The cause of the crash was un­known.

News of the charis­matic su­per­star’s death rock­eted around the sports and en­ter­tain­ment worlds, with many tak­ing to Twit­ter to register their shock, dis­be­lief and an­guish.

“Words can’t de­scribe the pain I am feel­ing. I loved Kobe — he was like a lit­tle brother to me,” re­tired NBA great Michael Jor­dan said.

“We used to talk of­ten, and I will miss those con­ver­sa­tions very much. He was a fierce com­peti­tor, one of the greats of the game and a cre­ative force.”

NBA play­ers were in tears dur­ing pregame warm-ups as crowds chanted “Kobe! Kobe!” Tiger Woods was un­aware of the news dur­ing his fi­nal round at Tor­rey Pines in

San Diego when he started hear­ing the gallery yell “Do it for Mamba,” re­fer­ring to Bryant by his nick­name.

The med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s

of­fice said spe­cial­ists were work­ing at the scene to re­cover the bod­ies, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors were try­ing to con­firm iden­ti­ties. Fed­eral trans­porta­tion safety in­ves­ti­ga­tors were en route.

Bryant’s he­li­copter left Santa Ana shortly af­ter 9 a.m. and cir­cled for a time just east of In­ter­state 5, near Glen­dale. Air traf­fic con­trollers noted poor vis­i­bil­ity around Bur­bank, just to the north, and Van Nuys, to the north­west.

Af­ter hold­ing up the he­li­copter for other air­craft, they cleared the Siko­rsky S-76 to pro­ceed north along In­ter­state 5 through Bur­bank be­fore turn­ing west to fol­low U.S Route 101, the Ven­tura High­way.

Shortly af­ter 9:40 a.m., the he­li­copter turned again, to­ward the south­east, and climbed to more than 2,000 feet above sea level. It then de­scended and crashed into the hill­side at about 1,400 feet, ac­cord­ing to data from Fligh­tradar24.

When it struck the ground, the he­li­copter was fly­ing at about 160 knots and de­scend­ing at a rate of more than 4,000 feet per minute, the Fligh­tradar24 data showed.

At the time of the crash, the Los An­gles County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment had grounded its own he­li­copters be­cause of the poor weather con­di­tions. The im­pact scat­tered de­bris over an area about the size of a foot­ball field, Vil­lanueva said.

Among other things, in­ves­ti­ga­tors will look at the pilot’s his­tory, the chop­per’s main­te­nance his­tory, and the records of its owner and op­er­a­tor, NTSB Board mem­ber Jen­nifer Homendy said at a news con­fer­ence.

Justin Green, an avi­a­tion at­tor­ney in New York who flew he­li­copters in the Marine Corps, said weather may have con­trib­uted to the crash. Pi­lots can be­come dis­ori­ented in low vis­i­bil­ity, los­ing track of which di­rec­tion is up. Green said a pilot fly­ing an S-76 would be in­stru­ment-rated, mean­ing they could fly the he­li­copter with­out re­ly­ing on vis­ual cues from out­side.

All around the world, peo­ple were glued to their phones and TV screens as news of the crash spread and net­works broke into pro­gram­ming with live coverage. A vis­i­bly shaken LeBron James wiped his eyes with tis­sues and walked away alone from the Lak­ers plane that had just landed in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Thou­sands of peo­ple gath­ered to mourn Bryant out­side the Sta­ples Cen­ter in down­town Los An­ge­les. Mourn­ers in No. 24 jer­seys mixed with those in fancy dress ar­riv­ing at the down­town arena for Sun­day evening’s Grammy Awards.

Peo­ple car­ried flow­ers and chanted “Kobe!” and “MVP!” un­der gi­ant video screens show­ing Bryant’s smil­ing face.

“This is where we needed to be,” said Naveen Cheerath, 31.

Bryant re­tired in 2016 as the third-lead­ing scorer in NBA his­tory, fin­ish­ing two decades with the Lak­ers as a pro­lific shot-maker with a sub­lime all-around game and a re­lent­less com­pet­i­tive ethic. He held that spot in the league scor­ing ranks un­til Satur­day night, when the Lak­ers’ James passed him for third place dur­ing a game in Philadel­phia, Bryant’s home­town.

“Con­tin­u­ing to move the game for­ward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much re­spect my brother.”

Bryant had one of the great­est ca­reers in re­cent NBA his­tory and be­came one of the game’s most pop­u­lar play­ers as the face of the 16-time NBA cham­pion Lak­ers fran­chise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scor­ing cham­pion, and he earned 12 se­lec­tions to the NBA’s All-De­fen­sive teams.

He teamed with O’Neal in a com­bustible part­ner­ship to lead the Lak­ers to con­sec­u­tive NBA ti­tles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Fire­fight­ers work the scene of a he­li­copter crash Sun­day in Cal­abasas where for­mer NBA star Kobe Bryant died. Nine peo­ple died in the crash, in­clud­ing Bryant’s 13-year-old daugh­ter Gianna.

BRYANT

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