Another person has been identified in the deadly helicopter crash that took the lives of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant. CNN has reported that 56-year-old John Altobelli was among the nine killed in the tragedy on Sunday afternoon in Calabasas, California. Altobelli was a former University of Houston baseball player and was currently serving as the Orange Coast College baseball coach, according to the school’s website. The news was confirmed by OCC Assistant Baseball coach Ron La Ruffa. According to the Houston Chronicle, Altobelli’s wife and daughter, Keri Altobelli and Alyssa Altobelli, were also among the deceased in the crash. The coach’s daughter is rumored to have played basketball on Bryant’s team.
Altobelli was about to begin his 24th season at OCC and had a very long career in sports both as a coach and a player. Last year, Altobelli was dubbed the American Baseball Coaches Association’s national coach of the year after leading his team to a state championship.
As a young player and student, Altobelli attended two junior colleges in California before landing at the University of Houston in 1983. He was a two-time captain and star outfielder. When Altobelli was a senior, his team just fell short of the College World Series after one devastating loss in the NCAA Regional Finals.
The baseball field today at Orange Coast College where John Altobelli would have started his 28th season as head coach Tuesday. Altobelli was on the helicopter with Kobe Bryant this morning #Kobe pic.twitter.com/v7CSSBj3Za
— Steve Fryer (@SteveFryer) January 26, 2020
Altobelli graduated with a degree in physical education, which would serve him well as a coach for decades to come.
“Not only was he a great supporter of the UH program but he was a great friend,” UH baseball coach Todd Whitting said.
“He had such a zest for life and was a tremendous friend to all of us that were close to him.”
Flowers have been placed on the home plate on the Orange Coast College baseball field. Mourners have gathered at the school’s campus as well to remember the well-loved coach.
Earlier today, it was reported that Bryant and his daughter were on board the helicopter with another parent and player, who appear to be Altobelli and his own daughter and his wife. The news of Keri and Alyssa’s presence in the helicopter broke shortly after the news of Altobelli’s own death and was confirmed by the coach’s brother Tony, the Orange Coast College’s sports information director. The pilot of the helicopter has also been confirmed dead, but the identities of himself and the three passengers are still a mystery.
Altobelli is survived by a daughter a son, J.J. Altobelli, who is a scout for the Boston Red Sox.