Recovery Effort Completed at Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash Site as NTSB Releases Footage of Wreckage

Lindsay Kimble

The bodies of the nine victims of the Calabasas helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna have been recovered from the hillside site, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner said in a news release on Tuesday.

“On Sunday afternoon, personnel from the department’s Special Operations Response Team (SORT) recovered three bodies from the helicopter wreckage located in the 4200 block of Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas,” the release said. “The next day, the search continued for the other six helicopter occupants. Soon after, their bodies were located, removed from the crash site and transported to the department’s Forensic Science Center.”

Currently, the investigators are working to identify the bodies, and examinations are in progress, according to the release.

The victims of Sunday’s crash have already been identified by friends or family. Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton of Orange County were also on board the aircraft, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School confirmed in a memo obtained by PEOPLE. The school said Payton was enrolled in eighth grade and Sarah served on its board of trustees.

RELATED: An NBA Legend, Loving Parents, 3 Teens & a Pilot: All 9 Victims of the Calabasas Helicopter Crash

Another passenger, Christina Mauser, was a girls basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Orange County and a coach for Bryant’s Mamba Academy. Her husband Matt confirmed the tragic news, writing on Facebook, “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much.”

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John Altobelli, who was the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, was also on board alongside wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli, the school confirmed in a statement on their website.

RELATED: Family of Sarah and Payton Chester Are ‘Heartbroken’ after Helicopter Crash: ‘It’s So Hard to Believe They’re Gone’

The helicopter was piloted by Ara Zobayan of Huntington Beach, California, PEOPLE confirmed. “He was as skilled and as talented as a pilot as you could get. With him, it was always safety first and above and beyond that, he was doing what he loved,” Adam Alexander — who called Zobayan a former instructor — told PEOPLE.

A source told PEOPLE that Zobayan was “extremely experienced” as a pilot. “He had a lot of respect for flying and would never take risks.

The private helicopter was reportedly headed to a travel basketball game for Gianna, Payton, Alyssa, and their teammates before it crashed in Calabasas.

RELATED: ESPN Reporter Tears Up Remembering Kobe Bryant Telling Her He Loved Being a ‘Girl Dad’

The NTSB is currently investigating the cause of the crash, which happened under extremely foggy conditions. CNN reported that the Los Angeles Police Department’s Josh Rubenstein said that visibility was so low Sunday morning that the department grounded its helicopters.

 

According to the NTSB — who released b-roll footage from the crash site on Tuesday — the impact broke the helicopter into pieces. A debris field was left, stretching about 500 to 600 feet, the NTSB’s Jennifer Homendy said, CNN reported.

“There is (an) impact area on one of the hills and a piece of the tail is down the hill, on the left side of the hill,” she said. “The fuselage is over on the other side of that hill, and then the main rotor is about 100 yards beyond that.”