Former UH baseball player killed with Kobe Bryant and 7 others in helicopter crash

CALABASAS, California (KTRK) -- A University of Houston alum was with basketball legend Kobe Bryant and 7 others when their helicopter crashed near Los Angeles and killed all nine people on board, multiple sources told ABC News and ESPN.

Orange Coast College confirmed long-time head baseball coach John Altobelli was one of the victims in the deadly helicopter crash.

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Sources told ESPN the retired NBA star and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the victims in the Sunday morning crash. The Los Angeles Sheriff said nine people were on board, including the pilot, but would not release the identities of the victims.

The University of Houston, where Altobelli graduated from and was once assistant coach, released a statement confirming that Altobelli's wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, were also among the victims.

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UH's head baseball coach, Todd Whitting, told ABC13 about his friendship with Altobelli.

"Alto was a fun, loving guy. He loved his family," said Whitting. "He loved the University of Houston and this program. He wanted to see us do well. If a year went by and we didn't have one of his guys, he'd kind of give me a hard time. He was a great coach."

ABC13 spoke with John's younger brother, Tony, on Sunday evening.

"I think we're all just kind of hurting right now. We're all kind of shell shocked," Tony said. "I know it hasn't hit me 100% yet, that's why I think I can still talk to you right now."

Altobelli's nephew, Bo Altobelli, said his family is still trying to process the tremendous loss.

"John was a great coach, great baseball guy and great family guy," said Bo.

Local coach, Russell Stockton, played under Altobelli and was his friend.

Stockton remembers him as a successful coach, winning four titles for Orange Coast College.

In 2015, four of his players were on HBU's championship team.

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Authorities say Bryant, Altobelli, their two daughters, Altobelli's wife and four others were headed to Fresno, California for their daughters' basketball game. Bryant was the team's coach.

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Altobelli graduated from UH with his bachelor's degree in 1987. The university says he lettered for the Cougars from 1984-85.

The University of Houston released the following statement:

"The Houston Athletics family is saddened today by the passing of John Altobelli. John served as a team captain for our baseball program during his time as a student-athlete at UH and worked tirelessly as a coach at Orange Coast College for the last 28 years, developing many players that had the opportunity to play for our university. Our thoughts and prayers will be with John's family in the days ahead."

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