American Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant Dies in Helicopter Crash

American basketball legend Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in California, USA. The sportsman – known as ‘Black Mamba’ – was 41-years-old. His 13-year-old daughter sadly also died in the crash, which reportedly killed eight people. (Updated 09h50 SA time.)

The tragic news was first reported by TMZ. The helicopter crashed in the hills above Calabasas in California, bursting into flames, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Tributes have already poured in. South African comedian Trevor Noah, who is based in New York, tweeted: “Jesus this is heartbreaking.”

Ellen DeGeneres said: “Like everyone, I’m stunned and sadden by the news about Kobe Bryant. My heart is broken for his wife and family.”

President Donald Trump said: “Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!”

LA Times said Kobe was travelling in his private helicopter with one of his daughters, and another parent with their child. It has since been confirmed that others to have perished in the crash include John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, along with his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, who was in Kobe’s basketball team.

Former Calabasas’ mayor David Shapiro has confirmed that Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna (known as GiGi) also died in the crash. She too was in her father’s team and had her dreams set on following in his footsteps.

The City of Calabasas tweeted Sunday that investigations are looking into the crash “in a remote field off Las Virgenes”. They said there were no survivors.

Kobe and his daughter were apparently flying to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, to support the Lady Mavericks basketball team playing a game at noon on Sunday.

Barack Obama tweeted: “Michelle and I send love and prayers to (Kobe’s wife) Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”

Shaq said: “Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah.”

Sikorsky, manufacturer of the helicopter involved in the crash, issued a statement saying: “We extend our sincerest condolences to all those affected by today’s Sikorsky S-76B accident in Calabasas, California. We have been in contact with the NTSB and stand ready to provide assistance and support to the investigative authorities and our customer.”

So many devastated fans rushed to the scene of the accident to lay tributes that roads have had to be closed. And Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, held at Staples Centre – home to Bryant’s basketball career – was turned from a celebration to a ceremony of remembrance.

Kobe, whose sports career began in Philadelphia, became a legend during his 20 years with the LA Lakers, since his debut at 18. Messages of support have poured in for Kobe’s wife Vanessa.