Harbor Day, OCC Grieve for Residents Killed in Helicopter Crash

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A visitor takes a moment Monday to remember Coach John Altobelli at home plate on Wendell Pickens Field at Orange Coast College.
— Photo by Daniel Langhorne ©

Newport Beach mourned seven residents killed Sunday in a helicopter crash, which grabbed worldwide headlines because Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were among the passengers.

Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant, Gianna Maria Onore Bryant and Natalia Diamante Bryant at the LA premiere of ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ on Feb. 26, 2018.
— Photo by Tinseltown – Shutterstock.com

Flowers and card were placed on benches outside Harbor Day School, where Gianna was enrolled in eighth grade and Christina Mauser previously worked for 11 years as a physical education teacher and girls’ basketball coach.

“Gianna Bryant was a vital part of the Harbor Day community since she started in kindergarten,” school administrators wrote in a statement. “She was always smiling. She looked out for the underdog and never left anyone out. Gianna was a strong leader, had a work ethic that was unmatched, and had a level of maturity beyond her 13 years.”

Mauser helped lead Harbor Day’s eighth-grade girls’ team to their first-ever championship, according to a press release. 

The Orange Coast College men’s baseball team, along with parents and alumni mourn coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa at Orange Coast College on Monday.
— Photo by Charles Weinberg ©

“She was a loving wife, mother, educator, and friend to many,” school administrators wrote. “The Harbor Day community is devastated and sends its love and comfort to her husband, another former teacher at our school, Matt Mauser, and their children.”

The Orange Coast College men’s baseball team, along with parents and alumni, met for their first practice of the academic year on Monday at Wendell Pickens Field in Costa Mesa. They mourned head coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa.

Coach John Altobelli of Newport Beach after the Orange Coast College’s baseball team won the 2019 California Community College Athletic Association Championships.
— Photo courtesy Orange Coast College

A golden retriever named Henry, who serves as a therapy and crisis response dog for HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, was brought onto the field to help soothe players and coaches. 

Before convening practice, the men’s baseball team tied a #14 banner, in honor of Altobelli’s jersey number, to the outfield fence. The team emblazoned “Always a Pirate” in blue letters at bottom of the orange banner. After huddling up to hear encouraging words from the coaching staff, players jogged around the field and touched the banner before starting their stretches.

“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” Coast Athletic Director Jason Kehler said in a prepared 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.” 

Newport Beach mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester were identified by friends and family as also being on board the helicopter, the Los Angeles Times reports.

A number 14 jersey hangs by the baseball field on Monday in honor of OCC coach John Altobelli.
— Photo by Charles Weinberg ©

On Monday, after more information came out about Sunday’s helicopter crash, Newport Beach city officials extended condolences to the families, friends, and neighbors of John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Christina Mauser, as well as Sarah Chester, Payton Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan during this devastating time.

“Tragedy was compounded upon tragedy as it became clear that other beloved and respected members of the Newport Beach and Orange County communities were travelling with Kobe and Gianna Bryant,” city Public Information Manager John Pope wrote in a statement on Monday.

The Orange Coast College Foundation has established an Altobelli Family Memorial and is accepting donations on its website.

For more information, call 714-432-5749 or email [email protected].

Read more about local reaction by clicking here.

And more about Sunday’s candlelight vigil for Kobe and Gianna Bryant here.

Players and coaches pose for a photo with a banner with #14 on the outfield fence of Wendell Pickens Field at Orange Coast College on Monday to honor the jersey number of Coach John Altobelli.
— Photo by Charles Weinberg ©
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