BREWSTER, Mass. (WPRI) — A Cape Cod League team and their supporters are mourning the loss of a former coach who, along with his wife and daughter, was killed in the California helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter.
The Brewster Whitecaps confirmed Monday that former head coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were among the nine who died on Sunday. Altobelli was in his 27th year coaching at Orange Coast College at the time of the crash.
Brewster Whitecaps board member Doug Scalise tells Eyewitness News he knew the Altobelli family well, and their loss will be felt in the baseball community for a long time.
“When it’s multiple members of the same family, it’s more excruciating, and when it involves children who haven’t had the chance to grow up and graduate high school,” Scalise said. “I think everyone feels the pain from that and it’s terrible, none of us want to think about what those last moments were like on that helicopter.”
It’s believed the helicopter was heading to a basketball tournament at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy, where Alyssa and Gianna were teammates.
Newport Gulls President Chuck Paiva said he was with Altobelli at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention two weeks ago. He said Altobelli was a coach unlike any other.
“He changed lives,” Paiva said. “He changed his players’ lives and he was such a positive influence on so many people. It’s just a terrible loss for the baseball community in this country.”
Altobelli’s son J.J. and daughter Alexis also played for the Whitecaps but were not involved in the crash.
J.J. is currently a scout for the Boston Red Sox.
“John touched so many lives in his 27 years coaching at Orange Coast College, and we join the entire baseball community in mourning him,” the Red Sox said in a statement. “Out of respect for J.J. and his family, please grant them privacy in the wake of their terrible loss.”
The team said while they will be providing the Altobelli family with financial and emotional support through the Red Sox Foundation, they’ve also set up a GoFundMe page on their behalf.