LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Longtime Lakers sportscaster Stu Lantz was on the team plane when they received the news of the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of nine people including Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
“I was totally shocked,” Lantz said about his initial reaction to the news. “We were on the airplane, and I had dozed off and somebody on the plane noticed that I’d awakened, they came over to me, told me the news.”
“Coming out of a deep sleep, I didn’t know if I was dreaming or what, but after a while, it was obviously something that wasn’t a dream, it was reality, it became all too real,” he told CBSLA’s Jim Hill.
“It’s really hard to wrap your head around something like that, that happens so suddenly. It’s just terribly, terribly tragic,” said Lantz.
“You have known Kobe since day one and you’ve seen him grow and mature into not only the great Hall of Fame basketball player that he is, but the terrific family man that he is, and businessman,” said Hill.
“Oh absolutely,” replied Lantz. “I remember the 17-year-old, and it’s just amazing. Not only the growth in his overall character as a person, but just the way he developed a sense of wanting to help other people, because at age 17 you don’t think about things of that nature, but as you grow and mature as a young man, those kinds of thoughts hopefully enter your mind, which they did for him.”
“Even more than a basketball player, even after his retirement, the adulations that he received regarding anything, whether it was his Oscar-winning for the writing of his book, it was just amazing to see not a transformation but a growth in Kobe from 17 to current,” Lantz said.
Also killed in the crash was 56-year-old John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, his wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, one of Gianna’s teammates. 45-year-old Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter Payton were aboard as well, along with 38-year-old Christina Mauser, one of Bryant’s assistant coaches, as well as pilot Ara Zobayan.
The site of the helicopter crash in the hills of Calabasas remained closed Tuesday amid the ongoing investigation into what caused it.