The Los Angeles Times reports the crash caused a bush fire that made it difficult for firefighters to reach the vehicle. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, though the Times reports foggy conditions may have made navigation difficult for the helicopter’s pilot.
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion with the LA Lakers, a team with which he spent his entire 20-year basketball career, until his retirement in 2016. He became the youngest player to score 30,000 points at the age of 34. And he is expected to be inducted in the Hall of Fame in the near future; a player generally must be retired for at least four full seasons to qualify.
His death led to an outpouring of condolences and statements of support, including from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who said Bryant “will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.”
Gianna was an aspiring basketball star herself; Bryant told ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel in 2018 that she hoped to play in the WNBA when she was older, and that he believed she would do so.
Bryant proudly told Kimmel about Gianna’s reaction whenever fans approached his family and told him to have a boy to carry on his on-court legacy: “She’s like, ‘Oh wait, I got this!’”
Greatness ran in his family’s blood.— CJ Pearson (@thecjpearson) January 26, 2020
Watch this video of Kobe talking about his daughter Gianna: pic.twitter.com/Ei676vZ3Mv
Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003 by a 19-year-old woman in Colorado. He denied the allegation, claiming the encounter had been consensual. His accuser did not want to testify, and the matter was settled out of court. The allegation resurfaced during Bryant’s Oscar campaign in 2018, and he was removed as a film festival juror at the request of activists over the issue.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of passengers initially reported to have been killed in the crash. We regret the error.