COSTA MESA, Calif. - The head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa was among the nine victims of a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant and one of his four daughters, the school confirmed this afternoon.
Altobelli's brother Tony, Orange Coast College's sports information director, told CNN that Altobelli's wife Keri and 13-year-old daughter Alyssa also were among the crash victims, none of whom have been officially identified by authorities.
Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna and Altobelli's daughter were teammates at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, and the occupants of the helicopter that took off Sunday morning from Orange County's John Wayne Airport were reportedly headed to a game that the ex-Lakers great was to coach, according to multiple media reports.
"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli. He was a coach, a colleague, a mentor and a friend at OCC for 27 years," an OCC statement read.
"John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball," OCC Athletic Director Jason Kehler said. "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. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy."
Team supporters gathered on the campus baseball field, where Altobelli would have started his 28th season on Tuesday, to mourn the loss of the man they called "Coach Alto," who in 2019 was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association as an ABCA/Diamond National Coach of the Year.
Altobelli "led the Pirates to numerous conference and state championship titles, notching more than 700 wins during his career and four state championships," according to the OCC statement, which said he "was a mentor to his players, often playing a key role in positioning student-athletes to obtain scholarships to play at the four-year level."
"We have lost a member of our OCC family, and our hearts are broken," said OCC President Angelica Suarez. "Coach Altobelli was a giant on our campus -- a beloved teacher, coach, colleague and friend. This is a tremendous loss for our campus community."