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Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna among 9 dead in helicopter crash

US basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna are among nine people killed in a helicopter crash in the city of Calabasas, California.

Kobe Bryant with his daughter Gianna, who is also believed to have died in helicopter crash, at the WNBA All Star Game at Mandalay Bay Events Center. Photograph: Usa Today Uspw/USA Today Sports
Kobe Bryant with his daughter Gianna, who is also believed to have died in helicopter crash, at the WNBA All Star Game at Mandalay Bay Events Center. Photograph: Usa Today Uspw/USA Today Sports

Bryant, 41, was travelling in a private helicopter when it came down and burst into flames.

The LA county sheriff said there were no survivors. Early reports had suggested five people were on board.

Bryant, a five-time NBA champion, was widely considered one of the greatest players in the game’s history.

Tributes from celebrities and fellow sports stars have been pouring in, many expressing shock at his sudden death.

“Please no. Please god no. It can’t be true,” basketball player Kevin Love wrote on Twitter.

The NBA issued a statement saying it was “devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna” aged 13.

“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” it said.

What do we know about the crash?

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the helicopter manifest indicated that nine people were on board when it crashed, raising the number from five in earlier statements by officials.

"Firefighters work the scene of a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Calabasas, Calif. NBA basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter and three others were killed in the crash in Southern California on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)"
“Firefighters work the scene of a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Calabasas, Calif. NBA basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter and three others were killed in the crash in Southern California on Sunday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)”

In a statement, the City of Calabasas said it heard the news “with great sadness”.

“The aircraft went down in a remote field off Las Virgenes around 10:00 this morning. Nobody on the ground was hurt,” it added.

Gavin Masak, who lives nearby, told CBS News of the moment the helicopter crashed.

“It wasn’t exactly like an explosion sound but it was like a loud boom. It sounded like a helicopter, but it sounded like a jet, like it was loud, so I went inside and told my dad what was happening. So when I came out I saw smoke on the hill but it wasn’t like a big, black cloud of smoke, it was just grey,” he said.

Other eyewitnesses told celebrity news site TMZ they heard the helicopter’s engine sputtering before it went down.

The LA County Sheriff’s Department shared pictures from the scene of the accident, showing a fire truck and smoke emerging from the hills.

The US Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76. It said it was investigating the accident alongside the National Transportation Safety Board.

Officials were set to give further details at a press conference expected to begin at about 22:30 GMT.

Who was Kobe Bryant?

Bryant played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He retired in April 2016.

Kobe Bryant dead at 41 after helicopter crash (Photo by Chris Elise/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant dead at 41 after helicopter crash (Photo by Chris Elise/Getty Images)

His achievements include being the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also NBA scoring champion twice and a two-time Olympic champion.

He famously scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, the second-highest single-game total in NBA history.

He also won an Oscar for best short animated film in 2018 for Dear Basketball, a five-minute film based on a love letter to the sport he had written in 2015.

Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, have three other daughters, Natalia, Bianca and Capri.

Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003 by a 19-year-old woman working at a Colorado resort. He denied the allegation, saying the two had consensual sex. The case was dropped after the accuser refused to testify in court.

He later apologised, saying he recognised that “she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.” A subsequent civil suit was settled out of court. BBC News

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