Kobe Bryant's Widow Vanessa Speaks Out Following Husband and Daughter Gianna's Tragic Deaths
Vanessa Bryant wed Kobe Bryant in April 2001, when he was just 22 and she was 18
On Wednesday, Vanessa, 37, shared an emotional message, telling fans she’s “devastated” over the loss of her “adoring” husband and their “beautiful, sweet” daughter Gianna.
Vanessa also thanked “the millions of people” for their support and love.
“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,” Vanessa wrote.
“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,” she added.
“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,” she continued. “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.”
Vanessa shared that while she is not sure how to recover from their tragic and sudden deaths, she and her family are going to “keep pushing.”
“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,” she said.
“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,” Vanessa continued.
Vanessa went on to announce that the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up a charity for the seven other victims of the helicopter crash: John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.
“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,” Vanessa wrote. “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 ❤️,” Vanessa concluded.
Vanessa wed Bryant in April 2001, when he was just 22 and she was 18. During their nearly 19-year marriage, the couple welcomed four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and 7-month-old Capri.
A source previously told PEOPLE in the wake of the shocking deaths that, as expected, Vanessa is “devastated.”
“She can hardly keep it together,” the insider said. “She can’t finish a sentence without crying. But she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls. She now has to be the strong one.”
The insider noted, “Of course, you can never be prepared for this. Despite their ups and downs, [Vanessa and Kobe] were soulmates. She thought of him as her partner for life.”
The father-daughter pair were victims in the deadly helicopter crash, which took place on Sunday around 10 a.m. local time in Calabasas, California.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby confirmed that there were nine victims in total — the pilot and eight others.
“All survivors were determined to have been perished,” Osby said, adding it took authorities eight minutes to get to the crash site.
Three of the seven other victims were later identified as John Altobelli, who was the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa Altobelli, who played on Gianna’s basketball team, which Bryant coached.
John, 56, and Keri were also parents to daughter Alexis Altobelli and son J.J. Altobelli, who works as a scout for the Red Sox.
John’s brother, Tony Altobelli, told PEOPLE, “I’m numb right now, I’m numb, I’m broken, I’m going to miss him terribly. He was my brother, he was my idol growing up, also my idol as an adult. You want to live my brother did, he was straight and narrow, he worked hard and he earned the respect of everybody who ever knew him and he left a legacy that will go way beyond his time spent in Orange Coast. I don’t know how you can not want to live a life like that.”
In addition, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton Chester, who was also a teammate of Gianna’s, were on board the helicopter that was piloted by Ara Zobayan, who was killed.
Zobayan of Huntington Beach, California, “was as skilled and as talented as a pilot as you could get. With him, it was always safety first and above and beyond that, he was doing what he loved,” said Adam Alexander, who called Zobayan a former instructor.
A source told PEOPLE that Zobayan was “extremely experienced” as a pilot. “It’s just such a shock. There are no words to express how much Ara will be missed and how sad everyone is about the passengers that died. It’s just such a painful tragedy. So many families affected and so much pain,” the source said.
Girls basketball coach Christina Mauser of Harbor Day School in Orange County, California also died in the crash. “She loved three things so much: her husband, her three kids, and basketball. That’s who she was,” Mauser’s friend told PEOPLE.
The crash is currently under investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed the aircraft was a Sikorsky S-76.