Four days after her husband, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and their 13-year-old daughter died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas that also claimed the lives of seven other people, Vanessa Bryant has thanked the public for an outpouring of support but said she remains “completely devastated.”
The Los Angeles Lakers organization also made their first extensive comments Wednesday evening on the tragedy.
“My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time,” she wrote on her Instagram account Wednesday. “Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them.
“We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately.
“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.
“Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality.
“To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org.
“Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. Mamba Mambacita GirlsDad DaddysGirls Family”
The Lakers also sent out a number of tweets regarding the loss of life — in particular Kobe and Gianna — sustained in the terrible crash
“We are devastated and have been forever changed by the sudden loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. We send our love to Vanessa, the Bryant family and to the families of the other passengers,” the statement on the team’s Twitter and Instagram accounts read.
“Words cannot express what Kobe means to the Los Angeles Lakers, our fans and our city. More than a basketball player, he was a beloved father, husband, and teammate. Their love and light will remain in our hearts forever.”
The statement also reminded fans that the Mamba Sports Foundation has established the MambaOnThree fund to support the families affected by the tragedy, directing them to MambaOnThree.org, where fans can submit their email address so they can be contacted once it begins accepting donations.
The Lakers also asked fans “inspired to continue Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports” to visit the website MambaSportsFoundation.org.
“We continue to support the Bryant family and will share more information as it is available.”
The Long Beach Post, meanwhile, reports that Long Beach-based Island Express Helicopters has suspended its service to Catalina in the aftermath of the crash that killed Bryant and eight others. Island Express was founded in Long Beach in 1982 and is the only tour company offering scheduled helicopter flights to Catalina. The company offers services from its heliport near the Queen Mary and in San Pedro. The choppers land at the Pebbly Beach heliport near the city of Avalon.
It is not clear when operations will resume.
The company says it is deeply saddened by the tragedy and is working closely with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the cause of the accident.
In May 2008, Island Express saw another fatal crash when its Eurocopter AS-350 took off from Long Beach and went down near the Banning House Lodge at Two Harbors. The crash killed the company’s pilot, Emeric Maillet, employee John Terry, and Tania Hurd, a school teacher from Burbank. Three others were injured.
Federal officials determined that the crash was likely caused by a turbine blade fatigue fracture.