In the early hours of January 26, a helicopter carrying nine passengers crashed into the hills of Calabasas, California. Onboard that flight was a number of sports icons and their young daughters. This unspeakable tragedy has rocked the sports world recently and tributes have poured in from across the globe. Thus, here is The Carolinian’s tribute to all of the lives lost on that fateful day.
First is the life of John Altobelli (1963-2020). Altobelli had served as the Head Coach at Orange Coast College since 1992. During his time with Orange Coast, Altobelli won five state championships and had also won over 700 games. Altobelli also coached Minor League Baseball and helped develop a pair of all-stars in the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the New York Mets’ Jeff McNeil.
On the legendary skipper’s passing, Orange Coast associate coach Nate Johnson said “He kind of gets overshadowed by Kobe a little bit, but he was his own Kobe of the junior college baseball world.”. McNeil stated that the affectionately nicknamed Alto “[was] one of my favorite coaches I have ever played for.”.
A Californian icon in his own right, Altobelli’s wife Keri (1973-2020) and daughter Alyssa (2006-2020) also unfortunately perished. Alyssa was a rising basketball star in the Mamba Sports Academy. The family is survived by a son JJ a scout for the Boston Red Sox and a daughter Alexis.
Also lost in the crash, was Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton(2006-2020). Payton’s former principal Todd Schmidt spoke highly of the young lady, stating that “If I had a new student, I could just go to Payton and several of her friends and they would just make sure that person, from almost the moment that she met them, would feel at ease, at home and just part of the Harbor View family.”. The Chester family had a large impact on the community, Schmidt would go onto say “while the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important … their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken.”.
The Chester’s are survived by the father Hayden as well as daughter and sister Riley. They took to Instagram to remember their loved ones; “The world lost two of the most beautiful women today. May your souls rest in peace. [We] love you.”.
Mamba Sports Academy assistant coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan were also among the departed. Mauser was a skilled basketball coach, her widower Matt Mauser recalled that “Kobe had seen her skill. Kobe was incredible at recognizing talent; when we started dating, I have a basketball hoop in my front yard … I thought I was pretty good and I got on the driveway with her and I had never experienced anything like Christina.”. Zobayan was a skilled and highly respected pilot who had flown for the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Kylie Jenner, and many more California-based stars.
Lastly, Kobe Bryant (1978-2020) and his daughter Gianna’s (2006-2020) lives were regrettably taken as well. The impact that the man known as the Black Mamba had in his 20 years in the NBA is obvious. However, Kobe and Gianna were both gifts to the game of basketball even in Kobe’s retirement. Kobe not only inspired a generation both on and off the floor with his relentless pursuit of success known as the Mamba Mentality, but he also embraced the game’s up and coming stars in ways that few former legends do.
Kobe and his wife Vanessa had four daughters and no sons. Despite that fact, Kobe had an heir to his legacy in Gianna. The young star emulated her father’s game and became a figure of female empowerment at the tender age of 13. ESPN’s Elle Duncan tearfully recalled how Kobe Bryant “[was] a proud girl dad”.
All of the lives lost will truly be missed.