The teenager who lost her father, mother and younger sister in the helicopter crash that also killed basketball giant Kobe Bryant and his daughter one year ago has struggled to grieve amid the COVID crisis where she can’t hug her loved ones, her family reveals.
In the tragic January 26, 2020 helicopter crash a total of nine people perished including college baseball coach John Altobelli, 56, his wife Keri, 46, and his youngest daughter Alyssa, 13.
Lakers Legend Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, also died on board as they flew to a basketball tournament.
Altobelli’s daughter Lexi, 17, is doing her best to cope with the enormous loss, her uncle says, and has been living with her half-brother JJ Altobelli.
‘They are coping as good as can be expected. JJ is Lexi’s guardian now, which is great,’ Lexi’s uncle Tony Altobelli, John’s younger brother, said to The Sun.
He said the COVID crisis has made it harder for his family to grieve because they can’t embrace each other saying, ‘The fact that you can’t hug people made it so much harder.’
Lexi Altobelli, 17, (center) is doing her best to cope with the loss of her parents John Altobelli, 56, his wife Keri, 46, (together left) and her younger sister Alyssa (right). They died in the January 26, 2020 Calabasas helicopter crash that also killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna
John Altobelli worked as a coach for the Pirates baseball team at Orange Coast College. Pictured left and right with wife Keri
The Altobelli’s daughter Alyssa who played on the same basketball team as Gianna Bryant at the Mamba Academy pictured above
Lexi is currently a senior at Newport Harbor High School who is preparing to head to college.
‘I believe she’s going to be moving on to the University of Texas for college. That will be great for her, it’s an amazing school. I think getting away from all this might be a good thing for her as well,’ Tony said.
Tony Altobelli, John’s younger brother, said the COVID crisis has made it harder for his family to grieve: ‘The fact that you can’t hug people made it so much harder. When you’re going through something like this you need a hug’
‘JJ is a scout for the Boston Red Sox and he has grown up very quickly because of what happened,’ Tony added.
‘We just want them to know that the support’s there whenever they want it but in the meantime they’re doing their thing and taking care of each other,’ he said.
Speaking on the COVID-19 crisis, he said it only made it harder for his family to grieve.
‘It’s been really hard on everybody. It’s terrible but fortunately we’re a close-knit group and we try to take care of each other as best we can,’ Tony said.
‘The fact that you can’t hug people made it so much harder. When you’re going through something like this you need a hug, you need some kind of support and camaraderie and togetherness,’ he added.
Lakers Legend Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, also died on board the helicopter as they flew to a basketball tournament. The two pictured above in November 2019
Tony says that he does not feel anger towards pilot Ara Zobayan, saying: ‘He wasn’t trying to kill anybody that day. It was an accident, things happen.’ A view of the wreckage of the crashed helicopter above on January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California
Tony expressed his sympathy for families like his dealing with grief amid COVID.
‘This stupid thing denied that to everybody, not just me and my family but other people that are going through heartache,’ he said.
‘The cruelest fate that this year bestowed upon us was going through this awful thing and having to do it alone,’ he added.
Tony opened up on his heartbreak on not just losing his brother, but seeing his niece lose so many people she loved.
‘It was hard for me to lose a brother but I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose the core of your family like Lexi did. I can’t even fathom that,’ he said.
JJ Altobelli pictured by Lexi Altobelli and Carly Konigsfeld during the memorial service for Orange Coast College baseball head coach John Altobelli, 56, his wife Keri, 46, and their daughter Alyssa at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California on February 10, 2020
‘It’s pretty surreal and hard to believe that it’s been one year. Then in other ways it feels like it’s been 10 years, it just kind of comes and goes with the waves of emotion,’ he added.
‘It’s been a hard year with COVID, social unrest and the postponement of our sports programs,’ Tony, a sports information director at the Orange Coast College where his brother worked as a coach for the Pirates baseball team, explained.
Despite the tragedy, Tony says that he does not feel anger towards pilot Ara Zobayan who was in charge of the chopper the day of the flight.
Bryant’s widow Vanessa has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him.
When asked about the lawsuit Tony said: ‘People have asked me if I’m mad at the pilot. No, he wasn’t trying to kill anybody that day. It was an accident, things happen.’
‘I don’t even think about those kinds of things. All I think about is my brother and what he meant to me and how we can help not only my family but others involved with this thing,’ he added.
In that lawsuit Vanessa Bryant has alleged that Zobayan was negligent for not seeking adequate weather data and not cancelling the flight due to weather conditions.
He worked with Island Express Helicopters Inc, which has called the incident a ‘tragic accident’ but hasn’t commented on the pending litigation, as per the New York Post.
Vanessa Bryant speaks out on one year anniversary of helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna
Vanessa Bryant has said losing her daughter Gianna and husband Kobe in a tragic helicopter crash ‘still doesn’t feel real’ one year on.
Heartbroken Vanessa, 38, took to Instagram on Tuesday to reveal she had received a beautifully written letter from one of 13-year-old Gianna’s best friends, Aubrey, and wrote in the caption: ‘My Gigi is INCREDIBLE and I truly appreciate your thoughtful letter.
‘She loves you so much. I miss my baby girl and Kob-Kob so much, too. [heart emoji] I will never understand why/how this tragedy could’ve happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings.
‘It still doesn’t seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!’
Strength: Vanessa has been keeping Gigi and Kobe’s memory alive with her loving posts as she navigates her way through unbelievable grief
Kob, we did it right: Vanessa captioned the letter post with these moving words
Sharing the letter on the anniversary of her daughter and husband’s death, Vanessa wrote: ‘Today I received this sweet letter from one of Gianna’s best friends, Aubrey.
‘I love you Aubz (as my Gigi would call you). Thank you so much for beautifully sharing some of your memories of my Gigi with me and allowing me to share them here on my ig.’
In her letter, Aubrey wrote about Vanessa as a mother. She penned: ‘You did it right Mrs. Bryant, and we are all eternally grateful to you.’
She added: ‘My mind constantly thinks of your beautiful daughter. Her smile and attitude push me to be better. You have probably heard this, but if I ever become a mom, I hope my daughter turns out exactly as yours did.’
Love: Vanessa posted Aubrey’s letter with permission after she wrote that Gi had changed her life for the better
She also wrote: ‘She cared. She knew when I was having a bad day and knew just how to make it better. She was generous with her snacks when I forgot mine. She left notes in my notebook which I cherish. She was incredible.’
Aubrey also wrote: ‘On behalf of everyone who met her, I can say she changed our lives. Her simple actions made all of us a better person, and I believe the results of this will never stop appearing.’