Christina Mauser was one of the eight passengers aboard the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter that crashed outside Los Angeles on Sunday, along with Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
All nine individuals, including the pilot, have been identified and include three youth basketball players on the team, as well as parents. Mauser’s husband, Matt Mauser, called his wife “extraordinary” in an interview Monday morning with “The Today Show” and said it was why Bryant wanted her to coach with him.
‘Extraordinary’ Mauser coached Mamba players
Christina Mauser was an assistant coach for the Mamba Academy AAU team that Kobe Bryant’s daughter, Gianna aka Gigi, played on.
Her husband, Matt Mauser, spoke with the program via phone. The couple have three young children ages 3, 9 and 11.
“It’s horrible. I’ve got three small kids, and I’m trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom.” -Matt Mauser, husband of Christina Mauser, who is one of the victims in LA-area helicopter crash pic.twitter.com/TxESfk5VvU
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 27, 2020
Mauser said he and the kids had a sleepover last night and watched a few seconds of “SportsCenter.” His daughter told him it was “nice to know that everyone is hurting along with us,” he said.
“I know that that sounds odd, but it does kind of help,” he said.
Mauser described his wife as warm, funny, witty and “incredibly bright.” Recently, he said, Bryant was trying to break down film (for eighth-graders, he added) but couldn’t figure out the computer. Christina stepped in to figure it out.
“He didn’t choose Christina [as his assistant coach] for just any ordinary reason,” he said. “She was extraordinary.”
“I’m scared, I think, more than anything… She was warm. She was incredibly bright.” Matt Mauser, husband of Christina Mauser, who is one of the victims in LA-area helicopter crash, remembers his wife and their friend Kobe Bryant pic.twitter.com/qhohGVzeGl
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 27, 2020
Matt Mauser is a Spanish teacher at the private school Bryant’s daughters attend and became close with Bryant when the Los Angeles Lakers legend asked to join a field trip to San Diego. He was also a basketball coach at the school and Christina was his assistant. When Bryant recognized her talent, he asked her to be an assistant coach at the Mamba Academy.
“He saw what an amazing mind she had for basketball and he brought her on. He asked her to teach the kids defense. Kobe didn’t really understand the zone defense because he never played at high school or college. She was an amazing mind for defense and basketball, so he brought her on.”
“They called her the Mother of Defense — M.O.D.”
He praised Bryant for making private school kids “gritty and tough” and said both coaches were dedicated to the girls. Mauser called the team a family and said, without naming the individuals, the families on the helicopter were “amazing in their own right.”
All 9 victims of crash identified
The identities of the remaining victims in the crash have also been identified.
John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife, Keri; and their daughter, Alyssa, died in the crash. The college and family confirmed it Sunday.
Altobelli spent 24 seasons as coach at the college and coached MLB players such as the New York Mets’ Jeff McNeil and the New York Yankees ‘Aaron Judge in the Cape Cod League. He was 56. Alyssa was 13.
Alyssa played point guard on an AAU basketball team with Gigi and was coached by Kobe Bryant. John and Keri leave behind a son, J.J., who is a scout for the Boston Red Sox, and a daughter, Alexis.
OCC’s first game of the season is Tuesday and the Pirates expect to play.
Sarah and Payton Chester
Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton, were killed, ESPN and CBS News reported. Payton was also a member of the team. Her brother posted a tribute on Instagram to his mother and sister, according to the sites, though it has since been deleted. Via CBS:
“Rest in Peace to the most amazing Mother and sister,” Payton’s brother, Riley Chester, wrote in an Instagram post. “I love you Pay Pay and Mom RIP.”
The helicopter was flown by beloved pilot Ara Zobayan, who was Bryant’s private pilot.
Friends have identified the pilot as
Ara Zobayan. He taught aspiring heli pilots to fly and was very much loved in the aviation community. They wrote “rest easy as you take your final flight to heaven.”@KTLA #KobeBryant pic.twitter.com/8pQh9eNJTk
— Christina Pascucci (@ChristinaKTLA) January 27, 2020
Zobayan was an instrument-rated pilot, Fox 5 in San Diego reported, and was qualified to fly in fog. According to tributes on social media, he helped aspiring helicopter pilots and was well respected in the flying community.
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