Kobe Bryant, 41, the legendary basketball star who spent 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, was killed when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed and burst into flames Sunday morning amid foggy conditions in the hills above Calabasas, sources told the Los Angeles Times.
His daughter Gianna, 13, was also on board and died along with seven others, authorities said. NBA officials confirmed that Bryant and his daughter were on the aircraft, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said there were nine people on board — a pilot and eight passengers. He would not confirm who had died until all the next-of-kin are notified, he said.
Bryant’s death stunned Los Angeles and the sports world, which mourned one of basketball’s greatest players. Sources said the helicopter took off from Orange County, where Bryant lived.
The crash occurred shortly before 10 a.m. near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street in Calabasas. Authorities received a 9-1-1 call of “a potential helicopter down and a brush fire” at 9:47 a.m. and firefighters arrived on the scene to find that the crash had caused a quarter-acre brush fire in steep terrain, said L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. Responders included 56 fire personnel — firefighters, a helicopter with paramedics, hand crews — and sheriff’s deputies.
“Our firefighters hiked into the accident site with their medical equipment and hose lines to extinguish the stubborn fire as it included the brush fire … and the helicopter,” Osby said during a news conference Sunday afternoon. “The fire also included magnesium, which is very hard for firefighters to extinguish because magnesium reacts with oxygen and water.”
Firefighter-paramedics were hoisted into the crash zone early on to look for survivors, Osby said. All nine people on board had died, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at the news conference. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, and the Los Angeles County coroner’s office is working on retrieving the bodies and identifying the victims.
The helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76B built in 1991, departed John Wayne Airport at 9:06 a.m. Sunday, according to publicly available flight records. The chopper passed over Boyle Heights, near Dodger Stadium, and circled over Glendale during the flight.
The National Transportation Safety Board database does not show any prior incidents or accidents for this aircraft. The helicopter is registered to the Fillmore-based Island Express Holding Corp., according to the California Secretary of State business database. The helicopter’s manufacturer, Sikorsky, said in a statement Sunday that it is cooperating with the investigation.