The world is mourning the loss of NBA Legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other victims who were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, January 27. Among the mourners is the heartbroken father of John Altobelli, who died with his wife and daughter in the collision.
John, 56, a college baseball coach, died at the scene with his wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa.
In an exclusive interview with RadarOnline.com, John’s father, Jim, said he is still trying to grasp the tragic events that have transpired in the last 24 hours.
“I was at the field this morning. I stood there. It’s a surreal feeling,” Jim, 85, told Radar. “And so, it’s settling and we will get through it, but certainly it’s a major setback.”
Jim revealed that John regularly flew with the superstar athlete because his daughter and Gianna— nicknamed “GiGi” — played on the same basketball team, the Mamba Lady Mavericks.
As Radar readers know, those on board the helicopter were heading to Kobe’s Mamba’s Academy in Thousand Oaks, where Alyssa, 13, and Gianna were set to play in a practice tournament. But shortly after takeoff at 9:47 a.m. — amid foggy conditions — the helicopter crashed into the Calabasas hills.
“He was quite a good guy, Kobe,” Jim told Radar. “And everyone I know is really concerned how this happened.”
John and Keri leave behind a son and daughter.
“I am interested to see both of them and be there for them as much as I can,” Jim said.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.
“My other son went up to Calabasas with their older daughter, and so we are waiting for them to come back,” Jim said, explaining that despite the heartbreaking news of his son’s sudden death, the show must go on.
“I’m going to get ready to go to work now,” he said.
John coached the Orange Coast College baseball team since 1993 earning over 700 victories and four state titles.
In an interview with The Athletic John’s brother, Tony, explained how he would be missed “not just at this campus but statewide at this level and all the way through collegiate baseball.”
The other helicopter crash victims include: Sarah and Payton Chester, a mother and daughter who lived in Orange County, Christina Mauser, a basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar, and the pilot, Ara Zobayan, who had at least 20 years of experience flying.
In his final Instagram post, Kobe honored Lebron James after the fellow NBA star surpassed his all-time-scoring list.
“On to #2 @kingjames! Keep growing the game and charting the path for the next,” the caption read.
Kobe started his basketball career with the Lakers in 1996, earning five championship titles. He retired 20 years later, in 2016, after succumbing to several injuries.
After retiring, Kobe earned a Oscar for Best Animated Short Film titled Dear Basketball.
On Monday, January 27, it was announced that Kobe will now be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He is survived by his four daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months, and his wife, Vanessa, 37.
Kobe was 41 years old.
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