A half-Filipina basketball coach was killed with NBA great Kobe Bryant and 7 others in a fiery helicopter crash this week, her relatives said Tuesday.
The 38-year-old fatality was Christina Mauser, a coach at the Mamba Academy that Bryant co-owned, her cousin Melanie Ramil said.
“We are beyond heartbroken,” Ramil wrote on Facebook.
Mauser’s husband Matt added that he and their 2 children were “devastated.”
“We lost our beautiful wife and mom,” he said in a separate Facebook post.
There were no survivors when the helicopter carrying Bryant and Mauser crashed in foggy weather in the suburb of Calabasas, where it caused a brush fire, authorities said.
Among those killed were Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Bryant, a 5-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and 2-time Olympic gold medalist, was flying to a game where Gianna was expected to play in, according to US reports.
Local media said the other victims included another player, a parent, and the pilot.
Christina’s husband Matt Mauser, a teacher and father of three young children, told Today Show co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on Monday that his family has been left reeling by his wife’s unexpected death.
“It’s horrible,” he said during the tearful phone interview. “I’ve got three small kids, and I’m trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom.”
Mauser told the co-hosts he first met Kobe Bryant when he was working as a Spanish teacher and basketball coach at one of Gianna “Gigi” Bryant’s private schools. The two fathers apparently attended a school field trip to San Diego together, where they hit it off and became friends.
Mauser eventually introduced the NBA legend to Christina, who served as Mauser’s assistant coach at the time. The former Lakers star was so impressed by the “amazing mind” Christina had for basketball that he hired her to teach defense to children attending his Mamba Sports Academy, a training facility for promising young athletes.
“[Kobe] didn’t choose Christina for just any ordinary reason — she was extraordinary,” Mauser remembered. “She was incredibly witty, funny like nobody you’ve ever met.”
“She was warm, she was incredibly bright. She was technologically incredibly savvy, she could figure out anything,” he added. “[Kobe] picked her because she was amazing. I was so proud of her and she was so happy.” (AFP, Yahoo and ABS CBN)