About 300 people, many wearing Kobe Bryant jerseys and Lakers colors, huddled together during a candlelight vigil Sunday night at Newport Ridge Community Park to honor the legendary basketball player and local resident.
Newport Beach lifeguard Josh Leith told the crowd that he broke down crying after walking in his house and seeing a poster of Bryant emblazoned with “invincible” hanging on the wall.
“He is invincible because of what he did for us,” Leith said.
The Newport Beach resident said he will remember yelling “pass the ball” or “great shot” at the television while watching Bryant’s games.
Bryant, former Los Angeles Lakers player and Newport Coast resident, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died Sunday in a helicopter crash that killed nine people in Calabasas, multiple sources reported.
There were seven “lights” in Newport Beach that were burning bright and were “snuffed out” too soon on Sunday, Mayor Will O’Neill said at the vigil. The city mourns together, he said.
“We’re all one community,” O’Neill said. “When those lights go out, we remember, we remember them. We come together as a community because that’s who we are and that’s who we’re always going to be.”
At the vigil, Corona del Mar resident Mark Beder said he got to know Bryant while their children both attended Sage Hill School. He admitted it took a couple of years to introduce himself to Bryant at community events because he assumed the basketball player wanted privacy.
“He was a humble man,” Beder said. “I really just came to love his work ethic.”
As a former trustee of Harbor Day School, Beder also asked the crowd to remember Christina Mauser, a former assistant girls basketball coach at the private elementary school in CdM.
Matt Mauser, the lead vocalist from local band Tijuana Dogs, confirmed on social media on Sunday that his wife, Christina, also died in the helicopter crash. He asked that his family’s privacy be respected and thanked people for their well wishes.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was also reportedly among the victims on board.
A manifest indicates that there were nine people on board, LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a press conference earlier on Sunday.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby confirmed that authorities received a 911 call around 9:47 a.m. about a downed helicopter and a small brush fire. Officers had to hike in to the incident, he added.
An LAFD helicopter also flew to the crash site with firefighter paramedics on board, who were hoisted down to the crash site. They found no survivors, Osby said.
He could not comment on whether the foggy weather conditions played a factor in the crash.
After the call came in, officials were on the scene in about eight minutes and it took about an hour to extinguish the fire, Osby said. It took additional time to extinguish the blaze because the magnesium in the helicopter reacted with the oxygen as it burned, he explained.
The brush fire was about a quarter of an acre, which is also about the size of the debris field from the crash, Osby added.