John Altobelli, who was an Orange Coast College baseball coach, tragically died in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash alongside Kobe Bryant

By Georgia Slater
May 09, 2020 01:00 PM
Natalia Bryant, John Altobelli
Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; OCC Baseball/Instagram

Kobe Bryant's eldest daughter, Natalia Bryant, is honoring the late baseball coach John Altobelli on what would have been his 57th birthday.

On Saturday, Natalia, 17, paid tribute to Altobelli, who tragically died with his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash alongside the NBA icon, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

Alongside a photo of Altobelli smiling on a baseball field wearing an Orange Coast College Pirates uniform, Natalia wrote, "Happy Birthday Mr. Alto," with an added heart emoji.

Known fondly as “Coach Alto,” John was the head coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team, and he led the Pirates to numerous conference and state championship titles.

The team's Instagram account shared a post in honor of his special day Saturday, writing "Happy Birthday Alto."

Natalia Bryant
Credit: Natalia Bryant/Instagram

John’s brother, Tony Altobelli, also toasted to the coach for his birthday, encouraging others on Facebook to send him a "'Cheers Alto" toast pic if you happen to partake in a beverage today."

"I don’t care if you knew him or not ... hoist it up, people! The world is depressing enough these days. Let’s all bring up a beverage to john. That’s what he’d want. Cheers everyone!" he wrote.

In January, Altobelli was honored at the Pirates' season opener. After walking into the stadium underneath a banner that read “The House That Alto Built,” the team — all wearing John’s number, 14 — and fans in the stands took a moment of silence before the first pitch to honor their fallen coach.

John's birthday comes one day after Vanessa Bryant filed a legal claim in regards to a collection of unauthorized photographs taken by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials that show the aftermath of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash.

John Altobelli
Credit: Orange Coast College/Twitter

The claim, exclusively obtained by PEOPLE, seeks damages for emotional distress and mental anguish following the revelation that eight L.A. County Sheriff’s Department deputies took graphic photographs of the victims and shared them with unauthorized people. This happened despite Vanessa personally speaking to Sheriff Alex Villanueva on the morning of the crash to request the site be secured for privacy.

"In reality, however, no fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches," the document asserts. "As the Department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes."

Only the county coroner’s office and investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were permitted to photograph the scene, Villanueva confirmed to reporters at the time.

Vanessa Bryant
Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty

Friday's filing says the "department’s mishandling of this egregious misconduct" only worsened Vanessa's "emotional distress." She would first learn of the photo scandal through various news outlets after February 28, almost a month after Vanessa's legal team says the department became aware of the photos’ existence.

"This [filing] solely is about enforcing accountability, protecting the victims and making sure no one ever has to deal with this conduct in the future," a spokesperson for the Bryant family exclusively told PEOPLE in a statement.

"When a family suffers the loss of loved ones, they have the right to expect that they will be treated with dignity and respect," the family spokesperson added. "The Deputies in this case betrayed that sacred trust. This claim is intended to hold the Sheriff’s Department accountable and to prevent future misconduct."

"Rather than formally investigate the allegations to identify the extent of dissemination and contain the spread of the photos, Department leadership reportedly told deputies that they would face no discipline if they just deleted the photos," the claim says.

As noted in Friday's claim, a bill proposed before the California Legislature on Monday would make it a crime for first responders to take and share photos of bodies at a crime scene, according to KCBS. If passed, anyone found to have taken unauthorized photos could face a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

The bill, titled “Invasion of Privacy: First Responders,” is in direct response to the Sheriff's Department photo scandal.

If you would like to help the families of the victims of the crash, consider donating to the Mamba on Three Fund. Contributions to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.