Kobe Bryant, daughter among 9 dead in helicopter crash in Southern California

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Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks, Nov. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles.

By Julia Jacobo
ABC NEWS

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant is among nine people who died in a helicopter crash in the wealthy Southern California residential neighborhood of Calabasas, ABC News has confirmed.

Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died alongside her father, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

There were no survivors in the crash around 10 a.m. local time Sunday, fire officials said in a press conference. The names of the other victims, which includes six additional passengers and the pilot, will not be publicly identified until next-of-kin are notified, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters.

“God bless their souls,” Villanueva said, adding that members from the coroner’s office are on their way to assist in the recovery of the remains.

The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed under unknown circumstances, a spokesperson from the National Transportation Safety Board told ABC News. Firefighters worked to contain the quarter-acre brush fire that resulted, which was difficult to extinguish due to the presence of magnesium, which reacts to oxygen and water, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told reporters.

The debris from the aircraft was scattered on steep terrain, Osby said. Paramedics on board an air ambulance were hoisted down to the scene but were not able to locate any survivors, he added.

Witnesses who were mountain biking in the area saw the helicopter in distress, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Tony Imbrenda told reporters. It is not known whether the pilot alerted over radio that the aircraft was in distress, Imbrenda said.

It is unclear who the helicopter belonged to or where it originated from and was going to.

Bryant was 41 years old.

He was drafted to the NBA out of high school in 1996 and spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five NBA championships. He was awarded NBA MVP in 2008 and NBA Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010.

Bryant won gold medals as a member of the U.S. men’s basketball team in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

LeBron James surpassed Bryant on the all-time scoring list on Saturday during the Lakers’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

“I’m happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant — one of the all-time greatest basketball players to ever play, one of the all-time greatest Lakers,” James told reporters after the game. “The man got two jerseys hanging up in Staples Center. It’s just crazy.”

Bryant tweeted at James congratulating him on beating his record.

In 2018, Bryant won an Academy Award for his animated short “Dear Basketball,” based on a poem he wrote in 2015 when he announced his retirement.

Bryant told “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts in December 2015 that he wrote a letter to his fans upon retirement because he wanted to show how much they meant to him.

“The letter itself still doesn’t do it justice and how important they’ve been — how vital they’ve been in my career,” he said. “And I mean, we grew up together. And that’s such a beautiful thing.”

Bryant was embroiled in controversy during a 2005 trial when he was accused of sexual assault by an employee at a Vail, Colorado, hotel. Bryant always denied the encounter was nonconsensual and the case was later dismissed after the victim said she did not want to testify and the two parties settled a civil suit.

Silver said in a statement that the “NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing” of Bryant and his daughter and offered condolences to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, and their family.

“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning,” Silver’s statement read. “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.”

The Lakers’ next game will be against the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday at the Staples Center at 7 p.m. PT.

Fans flocked to the scene of the crash, the Staples Center and the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium at the Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where Bryant played basketball prior to being drafted, to mourn the fallen NBA star.

In a statement, the school praised Bryant to raising “the profiled of the high school” and the school district, according to ABC Philadelphia station WPVI. Bryant led the team to the 1996 state championship.

“Our school community will always be grateful for his ongoing generosity to his alma mater, including his dedication of our Kobe Bryant Gymnasium and his support of our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams.

The NBA Player’s Association wrote in a statement that it was “stunned and devastated” by the news of Bryant’s death.

“Words cannot express his impact on our Players, the NBA and the game of basketball,” the statement read. “This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts are quite simply broken. We send love and prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family.”

ABC News’ Matthew Furhman, Matthew Foster and Matthew Vann contributed to this report.