Tributes have flooded in for American sporting icon Kobe Bryant after multiple US media outlets reported that he had tragically died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The father and daughter are said to have lost their lives on Sunday when the aircraft they were travelling in crashed in Calabasas, California, with the news first reported by US entertainment site TMZ.
Earlier today officials announced that a total of five people had been “confirmed dead” in the incident, however the LA County Sheriff’s Department held a press conference just minutes ago where Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters they had a manifest which indicated that nine people had been onboard – the pilot and eight passengers.
He said: “We have a manifest to indicate there were nine people on board of the aircraft. The pilot plus eight individuals. There is wide speculation who the identities are, however it is entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name until the coroner has made the identification through their process and made notifications to the next of kin.”
An investigation into the cause of the crash is currently underway and officials, including the coroner, remain at the scene.
Fire Chief Daryl Osby also addressed reporters and said: “Our firefighters hiked into the scene with their medical equipment … they did a search of the area for survivors … unfortunately all were determined to be perished.”
— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) January 26, 2020
The LA County Sheriff’s Department initially responded to reports of a crash at around 10am yesterday (5am AEDT) and emergency responders from the fire department and paramedics also attended the scene. No survivors were found.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the City of Calabasas said: “It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt. The FAA and NTSB are investigating.”
The 41-year-old was loved around the world, thanks to his impressive 20-year career with the LA Lakers. The five-time NBA champion is widely considered to be one the greatest players of all time.
Social media was flooded with tributes for the fallen star and his young daughter after news of the tragic incident spread, with one person writing: “This is SO heartbreaking R.I.P Kobe Bryant. A legend has been taken away from us today. My prayers go out to his family.” Another said: “So very sad. Not only was Kobe a great player for the Lakers, he was a great man. He will be greatly missed. It’s such a tragedy.”
My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players. pic.twitter.com/NXsrXmCkkG
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 26, 2020
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also released a statement following the news, which read: “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.
“We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization [sic] and the entire sports world.”
While his former teammate Magic Johnson said: “My friend, a legend, husband, father, son, brother, Oscar winner and greatest Laker of all-time is gone. It’s hard to accept. Kobe was a leader of our game, a mentor to both male and female players.”
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
Former US President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter: “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.”
While current President Donald Trump said: “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!”
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa, with whom he shared four daughters; Natalia, Gianna, Bianca and Capri.