The bodies of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven friends who died alongside them in a California helicopter crash have been released to their families, it was reported Tuesday.
The nine aboard the Sikorsky S-76B that crashed in thick fog in Calabasas on January 26 all died of blunt force trauma, including 50-year-old pilot Ara Zobayan, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner has ruled.
Now all nine bodies have been released to their families while the National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the fiery crash, CNN said Tuesday, citing the coroner’s office.
They include basketball legend Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, who was also a hoops hopeful, and their regular pilot, Ara Zobayan.
Also killed were girls’ basketball coach Christina Mauser, 38; mom Sarah Chester, 45, and her 13-year-old daughter, Payton Chester; and college baseball coach John Altobelli, 56, his wife, Keri Altobelli, 46, and their 14-year-old daughter Alyssa Altobelli.
Mauser’s husband, Matt Mauser, previously spoke of how close the group were, saying, “It was a family. They all really cared for each other.
“They were amazing people … They were wonderful, they were warm,” he told the Today show. “They loved their kids and they were so proud that their kids were growing.”
The group was expected at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game on the day the helicopter crashed about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
It comes as several callers to emergency services reported hearing loud booms and seeing flames after the California helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others, according to audio released by the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Some callers reported either hearing or seeing an aircraft plunge into the hilly terrain of Calabasas about 9.45am (4.45am AEDT) on January 26, according to US reports.
One caller, a man, was walking on a trail when he heard Bryant’s Sikorsky S-76 chopper go down above him — mistaking it for a plane.
“I can hear this plane, I think it was in the clouds,” he told the dispatcher, according to the recording.
“We couldn’t see it — and then we just heard a boom, and a dead sound. Then I can see the flames,” the man says.
Another caller, at a nearby supermarket in Agoura Hills, reported to the dispatchers that a “helicopter crashed into a mountain.”
“We heard it, and I’m now looking at the flames,” said the man, who was about a quarter-mile away from the crash site.