/Kobe Bryant tragedy is latest in sports worlds long, tragic history with aviation crashes

Kobe Bryant tragedy is latest in sports worlds long, tragic history with aviation crashes

A helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight others on board. In 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant won five championships, two Finals MVPs, the 2007-08 league MVP and was an 18-time All-Star. His on-court impact – he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this year – was only dwarfed by his influence in the game and beyond

Other victims of the crash included Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, as well as Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and two members of his family and Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach for a private school in Southern California. 

Tragically, this group was far from the first in the sports world to die in an aviation crash.

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Fans gather outside Staples Center to pay tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.

Here are other incidents throughout sports history:  

Roy Halladay — Nov. 7, 2017

Halladay, 40, was a Baseball Hall of Famer who earned two Cy Young awards and eight All-Star appearances during his 16 seasons in MLB before retiring due to shoulder injuries. He died in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida, with his autopsy showing evidence of morphine, an amphetamine, the sleeping medication Ambien, the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) and a BAC of .01. 

Russian hockey team Lokomotiv — Sept. 7, 2011

Twenty-seven players, two coaches and seven club officials for the KHL team were among the 44 total passengers who died in a plane crash in Tunoshna, Russia. The league canceled all games for five days while in mourning before rebuilding the team’s roster to finish the season. Nine of the victims were former NHL players

Payne Stewart — Oct. 25, 1999

Stewart, 42, was the winner of the 1989 PGA Championship and a two-time U.S. Open winner. He died aboard a chartered Learjet Model 35 that crashed near Aberdeen, South Dakota, following a loss of cabin pressure that caused Hypoxia to those on the aircraft despite the military’s attempt to intercept the plane.  

Brook Berringer — April 18, 1996

Berringer, 22, was a University of Nebraska quarterback who helped lead the Cornhuskers to their 1994 national championship after overcoming two collapsed lungs. He died when the two-seat, 1946 Piper J-3 Cub he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff in an alfalfa field in Raymond, Nebraska, two days before the NFL draft in which he was likely to be selected. 

Davey Allison — July 13, 1993

Allison, 32, the 1992 Daytona 500 winner, died of head injuries the day after a helicopter he was piloting crashed on the infield at Talladega Superspeedway while trying to land in a small fenced area. He received surgery to relieve pressure on his brain but never regained consciousness. 

Al Holbert — September 30, 1988 

Holbert, 41, was a five-time IMSA champion. He died when his personal Piper PA-60 aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff near Columbus, Ohio. His team disbanded at the end of the season and his No. 14 was retired by the IMSA. 

Thurman Munson — Aug. 2, 1979

The New York Yankees catcher, who won Rookie of the Year, an MVP and two World Series with the Bronx Bombers, died at 32 when a private jet he was piloting crashed near his home in Canton, Ohio.  

Evansville men’s basketball team — Dec. 13, 1977

Coach Bobby Watson and 14 players on the team died after the aircraft lost control shortly after takeoff in Evansville, Indiana. A memorial was constructed at the University of Evansville known as the “Weeping Basketball” to honor the victims.

Graham Hill — Nov. 29, 1975 

Hill, 46, was a two-time Formula One champion, 1966 Indianapolis 500 winner and head of Embassy Hill racing. He died when a plane he and five others were traveling in crashed on a golf course in North London in thick fog. Hill is the only driver ever to win the Triple Crown of Motor Sports; the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and the Monoco Grand Prix.

Roberto Clemente — Dec. 31, 1972

Clemente, 38, was one of the more accomplished baseball players of all time and became a Hall of Famer after 15 All-Star appearances and winning 12 Gold Gloves in his 18 seasons as a Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder. Known for his generous charity work, he was flying from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Nicaragua to aid earthquake victims when his plane crashed shortly after takeoff. The aircraft was later deemed unsafe for travel as it was overloaded, had two bad engines and the flight engineer was not qualified for his position. 

Marshall football team — Nov. 14, 1970

In what is recognized as “the worst sports related air tragedy in U.S. history,” a charted flight carrying 75 people — among them 37 members of the football team and eight coaches — crashed into a hill as it approached the Tri-State Airport. 

Rocky Marciano —  Aug. 31, 1969

Marciano, 45, was the world heavyweight champion from 1947-56, and finished his career with a record of 49-0, once the best record in boxing history. On the day before his 46th birthday, flying in a single-engine Cessna 172-H from Chicago to make an appearance at his friend’s event, his plane crashed in Newton, Iowa, due to poor weather conditions.

Rafael Osuna — June 6, 1969 

Osuna, 30, was a former world No. 1 tennis player who won the 1963 U.S. Open. He was one of 79 people killed in the crash of Mexicana flight 704 that collided into the Cerro del Fraile in Mexico.

Tony Lema — July 24, 1966

Lema, 32, was an American professional golfer who won the 1964 British Open. While traveling to a golf tournament, his plane crashed on a golf course in Munster, Indiana, and burst into flames. 

Joaquin Blume — April 29, 1959:

Blume, 25, was Spain’s European gymnastics champion and the favorite to win gold in both the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. Since Spain boycotted the 1956 games because of the USSR’s involvement in the Hungarian revolution, Blume never participated. He died when his plane crashed in Valdemeca mountain range in Madrid due to poor weather conditions.

Manchester United champion soccer club — Feb. 6, 1958

Known as the “Munich Air Disaster,” British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third takeoff attempt from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in West Germany. Twenty-three of the 44 passenger died, including eight players, some club employees and several journalists. The team had just qualified for the semifinals of the European Cup.

Moscow VVS ice hockey team — Jan. 7, 1950:

Representing the Soviet Air Force, 11 players died when their plane crashed near Sverdlovsk, now known as Yekaterinburg, Russia. Even after altering their route because of inclement weather, the crew lost control of the plane due to strong wind and snow

Marcel Cerdan — Oct. 27, 1949: 

Cerdan, 33, was a former world middleweight champion and considered by many to be France’s greatest boxer. Aboard a Lockheed L-749 Constellation before the start of his training to fight Jake LaMotta, the plane crashed into Monte Redondo, killing all 11 crew members and 37 passengers on board, including Cerdan and famous French violinist Ginette Neveu. 

Czechoslovakia national ice hockey team — Nov. 8, 1948:

Ladislav Trojak, 34, was a star on the 1947 world-champion Czechoslovakian national ice hockey team and an IIHF Hall of Famer. He and five of his teammates were killed in a plane crash over the English Channel.

Nile Kinnick — June 2, 1943:

Kinnick, 26, was the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and consensus All-American at the University of Iowa. He died serving as a United States aviator in World War II when his plane leaked oil during a training flight, forcing him to crash land in the Gulf of Paria off the coast of Venezuela. Kinnick was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, and his college renamed its football stadium Kinnick Stadium in 1972.