NBA legend Kobe Bryant dead in LA-area helicopter crash

The former Los Angeles Laker and his daughter Gianna died Sunday in the crash, and as many as seven other people may have been killed

Kobe Bryant, who won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and his 13-year-old daughter died Sunday in a helicopter crash in the Los Angeles area. Seven other people were also killed, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

David Shapiro, a City Council member and former mayor of Calabasas, where the crash occurred, confirmed to NBC News that Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna were on the helicopter.

Other victims included John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California; his wife, Keri; and their daughter Alyssa. The college, in confirming the deaths, said in a statement that Altobelli had coached there for 27 years.

Payton Chester, a 13-year-old basketball player, and her mother Sarah were also on board. Calling the crash a “freak accident,” Payton’s grandmother Catherine George told NBC News that “they had to get on the helicopter as a convenience today, they usually drove by car.”

Christina Mauser, a coach, was also killed, according to her husband Matt Mauser, who posted the news on Facebook.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said a manifest for the helicopter listed nine people — eight passengers and a pilot. He said all nine people died in the crash.

A call for a downed helicopter and brush fire in Calabasas went out at 9:47 a.m., Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. Osby said the fire, which covered a quarter-acre, was difficult to extinguish because it included magnesium, a chemical that reacts with oxygen and water.

The recovery effort will probably take several days to complete given the terrain and condition of site, Chief Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas said at a press conference on Sunday.

NBC Los Angeles reported that Bryant, who lived south of Los Angeles in Orange County, often used helicopters to avoid Southern California’s notorious traffic. As a player, he traveled to practices and games by helicopter — a practice he continued after retirement.

On Saturday night, Bryant tweeted his congratulations to LeBron James after James surpassed him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.