CALABASAS, California (AP/CNN) – The longtime head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa was among those killed in the Calabasas helicopter crash that also claimed Kobe Bryant’s life Sunday, the school said.
John Altobelli, 56, was aboard the aircraft with his daughter Alyssa Altobelli and wife Keri Altobelli, the coach’s brother Tony Altobelli told CNN.
Altobelli was also a former letterwinner and assistant coach for the University of Houston baseball team. He graduated from Houston in 1987 with a degree in physical education, according to a press release from the University.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant is also among the nine who died, sources confirmed to the Associated Press.
Gianna and Alyssa were teammates at the Mamba Academy and were flying from Orange County to Thousand Oaks to attend a game, OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa told CNN.
“It was something John routinely did, flying up with Kobe to attend games with his daughter,” La Ruffa said.
“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” Athletic Director Jason Kehler said in a 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.”
John Altobelli stands alongside Kobe Bryant as he addressed the Orange Coast College baseball team in this undated photo obtained by KTLA.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy,” Kehler added.
The school says the longtime coach — known as “Coach Alto” — had more than 700 wins during his career, including four state championships. Last year, he was named as a Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He was entering his 28th season as the head coach, where he was the longest-tenured baseball coach in school history.
Altobelli also took his work as a mentor seriously and was often a key factor in student-athletes earning scholarships, OCC said.
“We have lost a member of our OCC family, and our hearts are broken,” said 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.”
Altobelli is survived by a daughter, Alexis, and a son, J.J. Altobelli, who is a scout for the Boston Red Sox.