US basketball legend Kobe Bryant has been killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with four others.
The five-time MBA champion, aged 41, was travelling in a private Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, which reportedly crashed and burst into flames at amid foggy conditions.
A statement from the city of Calabasas reads:
It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash. The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt.
Around 200 people had gathered together at the foot of the hill in Calabasas, in close proximity to the crash. Many of them wore Kobe gear and had basketballs.
Eyewitnesses told news site TMZ they heard the helicopter’s engine sputtering before it went down. The LA County Sheriff’s Department relewsed pictures from the scene of the accident, showing a fire truck and smoke emerging from the hills.
Bryant’s eldest daughter, Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant, was among those who died in the crash. The identities of the other victims have not yet been released. The investigation by the US Federal Aviation Administration is ongoing.
Who is Kobe Bryant?
Born August 1978 in Philadelphia and brought up in Italy, Bryant joined the NBA in 1996 after graduating from high school. He went on to play 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers – winning five NBA championships and becoming the third all-time scorer in NBA – becoming the NBA Most Valuable Player in 2008 and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was referred to by his self-given nickname ‘Black Mamba’; a type of snake, highlighting his competitive nature.
Bryant retired in April 2016. He won an Oscar for best short animated film in 2018 for ‘Dear Basketball’; a five-minute film regarding a love letter to the sport which he had composed in 2015.
There have since been several tweets from celebrities and sports stars, paying tribute and expressing utter shock at Bryant’s death.
My hometown of Los Angeles has lost a sports legend, Kobe Bryant, who was killed along with his 13-year old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash today. My heart is with their family on the news of this tragic accident.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) January 26, 2020
American actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg: “RIP Kobe, hero to many including my grandson, extraordinary athlete and always kind to me & my family. My deepest condolences to his family.”
Basketball player Kevin Love: “Please no. Please god no. It can’t be true.”
Jill and I are sending our prayers to the Bryant family and to everyone who lost loved ones in today’s crash. It’s a reminder of how special — and fragile — life is. And it’s a reminder that we’ve got to make every day count.
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) January 26, 2020
US President Donald Trump: “Terrible news.”
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling: “Rest easy Legend💛💜”
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020