CALABASAS, California (CNN) — The bodies of all nine victims of the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant have now been positively identified.
The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner announced Wednesday that it has confirmed, following “round-the-clock testing and analysis of DNA,” that Gianna Bryant, 13; Payton Chester, 13; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; and Christina Mauser, 38, were killed in the crash.
The coroner had previously confirmed the identities of Bryant, 41; John Altobelli, 56; Sarah Chester, 45; and pilot, 50-year-old Ara Zobayan, through their fingerprints.
The cause of death for all nine victims was certified as blunt trauma, and the manner of death was certified as accident, the coroner said.
The group had been on the way to a basketball game Sunday morning when the helicopter carrying them crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California. There were no survivors. The teenagers were teammates on a basketball team coached by Bryant and Mauser. The girls were traveling along with their parents.
Aircraft descended at 2,000 feet per minute
The helicopter missed the top of the hill by 20 to 30 feet, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
Preliminary information suggests the helicopter descended rapidly before it crashed, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said.
“The descent rate for the helicopter was over 2,000 feet a minute,” Homendy said. “This is a pretty steep descent at high speed.”
Investigators are trying to determine what caused the crash and whether the pilot should have been granted special permission to fly in the foggy conditions Sunday morning.
FAA records reviewed by CNN reveal Island Express Holding Corp., the company operating the helicopter, was certified only for visual flight rules flights.
Visual flight rules require pilots to stay clear of clouds and in good visibility while using both visual and instrument navigation.
Investigators are also looking into whether a safety system — recommended by federal authorities years ago — could have prevented the tragedy.
What was found at the scene
The aircraft also lacked a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder, Homendy said. Investigators have recovered an iPad, a cell phone and documents such as the helicopter’s maintenance records, registration and airworthiness certificate from a debris field that stretched 500 to 600 feet.
Homendy said the NTSB will release its preliminary report on the crash in about 10 days — but it won’t answer everyone’s questions.
“It’s not going to contain our findings, our analysis,” she said. “It’s not going to contain any safety recommendations or probable cause. But it’s going to provide some factual information — more than we have now.”
She said a final report will be out in about 12 to 18 months.
Vanessa Bryant speaks out on the loss of her husband and daughter
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, made her first public statement on the loss of her husband and daughter, Gianna, on her Instagram Wednesday.
View this post on Instagram
My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. 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 ❤️
“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.”
Vanessa Bryant said she didn’t know how her family would move forward from the loss, but that Kobe and Gianna would “light the way.”
She continued by sending her condolences to the families of the seven other crash victims.
She wrote: “We share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now.”
Lakers mourn Kobe
The Los Angeles Lakers, the team on which Bryant played his entire NBA career, met at their practice facility Wednesday for the first time since the crash.
Though he has been retired from professional basketball for four years, Lakers players still idolize the five-time NBA champion.
Lakers Coach Frank Vogel said the team did some shooting drills but it wasn’t a “real practice.” He said he wanted his guys to break a sweat and to be around each other.
He said they all spent time together at a team lunch and grieved together.
“We did some things that we thought would be therapeutically beneficial.”