The deaths of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash two weeks ago get most of the attention, but several other families were forever changed by the accident that day.
The Altobelli family lost three people in the crash — Keri and John Altobelli and their 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, who was on Gianna’s Mamba Academy basketball team.
John’s brother, Tony, revealed to The New York Times the heartbreaking way in which he and their other brother, Jim, found out about the horrible news.
“Did you hear about Kobe?” Jim asked his brother Tony over the phone.
Knowing that Jim sometimes flew with the Bryants, Tony then texted Sammy Doucette, a basketball coach at Orange Coast College where John was a baseball coach.
“Hey Sammy is it true about Kobe?” he asked in a text sent at 11:54 a.m.
“Where is John?” she replied at once. “Was he on board? Where’s Alyssa?”
“You better call John,” she went on. “His phone is off. I know he’s flown on the copter before.”
Tony’s next text went to John at 11:55 a.m., asking: “Hey, are you there? Are you and the kids OK?” there was no response.
Tony next reached out to other baseball coaches at Orange Coast College, looking for some confirmation that John had been on the helicopter. It was Coach Tim Matz who reportedly called him back, speaking through tears.
“They’re all gone,” he said.
“Who’s all gone?” Tony asked.
“John, Keri and Alyssa,” Matz said. “They’re all gone.”
The helicopter went down in thick fog and clouds at 9:45 a.m. on January 26. A preliminary report released by the NTSB on Friday indicated that there was no engine failure and the crash was likely the result of pilot error.
The report also detailed the account from an eye witness who was hiking on a trail just 50 feet from where the crash occurred.
“He said he began to hear the sound of a helicopter, which he described as appropriate for a helicopter flying while in a powered condition. He perceived the sound getting louder and saw a blue and white helicopter emerge from the clouds,” the report said.
“He judged it to be moving fast, travelling on a forward and descending trajectory. It started to roll to the left such that he caught a glimpse of its belly. He observed it for seconds 1 to 2 seconds, before it impacted terrain about 50 feet below his position.”