Orange Coast College Baseball Coach Killed in Helicopter Crash With Kobe Bryant

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Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was among the victims of the helicopter crash that also killed Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, Altobelli's brother Tony Altobelli told CNN. 

Altobelli's daughter Alyssa and wife Keri were also aboard the helicopter.

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters that nine people were on board the aircraft—the pilot plus eight people. All nine have died.

The helicopter went down in the hills of Calabasas and a fire broke out. The crash occurred before 10 a.m. local time, and the fire made it difficult for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the aircraft, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Gianna and Alyssa were teammates at the Mamba Academy and were flying from Orange County to Thousand Oaks to attend a game, OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa told CNN.

“It was something John routinely did, flying up with Kobe to attend games with his daughter,” La Ruffa told CNN. 

Reaction to the crash poured in from all across the sports world. NBA teams paid their respects prior to their games on Sunday. Fans flocked to the Staples Center to show their support.

Orange Coast College officials and supporters gathered at the school as news of Altobelli's death surfaced.

The 56-year-old Altobelli was a coach at the school for 27 years. He had won more than 700 career games and most recently helped guide the Pirates to a 39-9-1 record and a third consecutive Orange Empire Conference title.

"John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball," OCC athletic director Jason Kehler said in a statement. "He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none—he treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy."

Two of the best baseball stars in New York, Aaron Judge and Jeff McNeil, played for Altobelli's Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod League in 2012. McNeil told ESPN that his former coach is "one of the main reasons I’m still playing professional baseball."

"He took a chance on me, kept me the whole summer," McNeil said. "Him taking that chance on me, having me on his team, got me drafted."

Judge has said his season playing for the Whitecaps was crucial in his development as a player. A year later, he was drafted 32nd overall in the 2013 MLB draft.

"This isn't real..." Judge wrote on Twitter.

“The biggest thing for me was getting a chance to face some of the best college players in the game. Whenever you face better competition, you always rise to the occasion,” Judge told The New York Daily News of his run with the Whitecaps. “I enjoyed every bit of that summer.”

Orange Coast College was set to open its 2020 season Tuesday against Southwestern. According to the Orange County Register's Steve Fryer, players are deciding if they will in fact play that game or reschedule it. 

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