Family of Sarah and Payton Chester Are 'Heartbroken' after Helicopter Crash: 'It's So Hard to Believe They're Gone'
The deaths of Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, both of whom were killed in the helicopter crash Sunday that also claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and five others, have left their family “heartbroken.”
After the tragic accident, Andy George, Sarah’s brother and Payton’s uncle, spoke to The OC Register about the devastating loss.
“We’re just sad, I mean, we’re heartbroken,” said Andy, 47. “It’s starting to settle in a little bit, but I’m still in disbelief. We were always trying to be there for each other and we were really close.”
Andy, the football coach at La Serna High School, said that his sister Sarah, who was 45, was “the one that everybody counted on.”
“She was there for everyone,” he added. “She was everything to her family, to our family. Anytime I needed anything, she was the person I went to.”
“I’m going to miss her so much, I already do,” Andy continued. “She’s strong, kind, intelligent, funny, beautiful, and was everything to us.”
Andy said that his niece Payton “loved” basketball and had been playing on Gianna’s team for some time. (The private helicopter was reportedly headed to a travel basketball game for Gianna, Payton, and their teammates before it crashed in Calabasas.)
“She had this sweetest soul, the kindest, most gentlest person you would ever meet,” Andy said of Payton. “She always had a huge smile on her face. Every time we would see her she would spend all her time with my little daughters.”
“She enjoyed every minute of being there for them, and in basketball, she worked so hard at it,” he said. “She was good, she had a big future ahead for her. It’s just so devastating.”
On Monday, the Chester family released a statement, mourning the loss of their loved ones. “Yesterday we lost our mother and wife, Sarah, and sister and daughter, Payton. We are devastated by this loss,” the statement began.
“Sarah and Payton were the lights of our family. Payton had a smile and personality that would light any room, and a passion for the game of basketball. She found joy on any court and loved all of her teammates and coaches. Sarah was full of life and the glue of our family. She was a tireless force in support of her family. The love we feel from so many today is a testament to the community she created for us,” the family continued.
Speaking to PEOPLE, Todd Schmidt, the former principal of Harbor View Elementary School where Payton attended with her brothers before they moved to St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, said Sarah and Payton were members of a “dream family.”
“The thing about the Chesters is, as a principal, they were truly a dream family,” said Schmidt, who has since moved to a school closer to his own children. “They were a principal’s dream family.”
Sarah is survived by her husband Chris and her two sons, Hayden and Riley, who are in 10th grade.
Emergency personnel responded to the crash but none of the nine people on board survived, authorities said during a press conference, hours after the crash.
Bryant, 41, is survived by Vanessa, 37, and their three daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.