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The Death Of Kobe Bryant: One Year Later

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Kobe Bryant Mural
Photo Courtesy of Oscar Sol

Tuesday marks the first anniversary of the helicopter crash in Calabasas that killed Laker legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, as a final determination on the probable cause of the crash approaches.

The sports world was stunned the morning of Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter carrying the 41-year-old Bryant and his daughter, along with two of her teenage basketball teammates and four additional adults, slammed into a hillside that fateful Sunday as they were en route to the retired NBA star’s Mamba Sports Academy. There were no survivors.

In addition to the Bryants, those who died in the crash were:

— John Altobelli, 56, a longtime coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team, along with his wife, Keri, 46, and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, who was a teammate of Gianna’s on Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy youth basketball team;

— Sarah Chester, 45, and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who also played with Gianna and Alyssa;

— Christina Mauser, 38, one of Bryant’s assistant coaches on the
Mamba Academy team; and

— Ara Zobayan, 50, the helicopter pilot.

Since then, people have tried to make sense of what happened, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has scheduled a Feb. 9 meeting to announce the results of its investigation into the cause of the crash.

Documents made public last year by the NTSB lent credence to the growing theory the pilot may have become disoriented while navigating through the fog while ferrying the passengers from Orange County to Camarillo. They were going to the former Laker’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball game, with Bryant scheduled to coach his daughter’s team.

Photo Courtesy of Oscar Sol

According to documents made public last summer, Zobayan’s last communication with air-traffic controllers before the crash indicated that he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above the cloud cover. However, flight data from the NTSB indicated the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was actually descending at the time while banking to the left, ultimately slamming into the ground a rate of about 4,000 feet per minute.

Just before the crash, flight data showed the helicopter had `”reached its maximum altitude and began descending. During the final descent the pilot, responding to ATC (air traffic control),
stated that they were climbing to 4,000.”

That was Zobayan’s final transmission.

Documents released thus far have not reached any conclusions as to the actual cause of the crash, which has sparked an array of lawsuits filed by relatives of the crash victims, including Bryant’s widow.

Vanessa Bryant has also sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department over cell phone pictures taken at the crash scene by responding deputies, and recently posted a plea on Instagram for the media to take care in reporting on the anniversary.

“We ask that you do not air photos of the wreckage, helicopter in the air or accident scene. We do NOT want to see it. Our year has been traumatic enough… We hope videos of remembrance are done in a classy and tasteful manner that is respectful of all our losses.’

Mourners this past year have paid tribute to the sports legend in many ways. Murals of Bryant color the Southland and the world, with the website KobeMural.com mapping hundreds of sites for people to pay their respects.

Just before leaving office, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order to put together a National Garden of American Heroes, or National Garden, with Bryant to be included on the list of heroes.

Bryant played his entire 20-season career with the Los Angeles Lakers, helping them win five NBA championships.

The team isn’t planning a formal tribute on the anniversary of his death, nor are players scheduled to wear their “Black Mamba” tribute uniforms for Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia. However, players have been paying subtle tribute by wearing his signature sneakers and breaking huddles by shouting “Mamba on three!”

Lakers leader LeBron James was asked about the impending anniversary after the Lakers’ game on Saturday night.

“Man, it’s a saying that says, `Time heals all,”’ James told reporters. “And as devastating and as tragic as it was and still is to all of us involved with it, only time (will help). And it takes time. Everyone has their own grieving process. Everyone understands that everyone individually is different. Everyone is going to grieve differently. All you can do as a friend or a loved one or anyone in our brotherhood or our familyhood that we have here in the Lakers organization is to put an arm around someone when they need it.”

Photo Courtesy of Oscar Sol
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Saugus Swimmer Abbey Weitzeil Wins Bronze Medal At Tokyo Olympics

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Saugus Swimmer Abbey Weitzeil Wins Bronze Medal At Tokyo Olympics
Photo By: Mike Lewis / USA Swimming

Saugus swimmer Abbey Weitzeil won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics Saturday evening, becoming the first athlete from Southern California to take a top spot in the games. 

Weitzeil, a graduate of Saugus High School, earned the medal by swimming the second leg on the U.S. Women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay team.

The Santa Clarita native was the fastest of the four U.S. swimmers, with her leg of the race clocking in at 52.68 seconds. Overall, the U.S. team had a time of 3:32.81, coming in third place close behind Canada. The Australian team took the gold at 3:29.69, breaking its previous world record.

This is the third medal for Weitzeil who garnered two in the 2016 Rio Olympics, gold for the 4×100 medley relay and silver for the 4×100 freestyle.

Weitzeil was a hometown swimming star, taking eight CIF titles and setting national records in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle.

Upon graduating from Saugus High, Weitzeil attended the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) where she was named the National Swimmer of the Year.

At Cal, Weitzeil broke many school records and reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. 

Weitzeil still holds several American swimming records, including the 50-free and the 100-free, according to the International Swimming League.

Several other Santa Clarita residents, including Allyson Felix, David Smith and Kyle Ensing are also competing in the 2020 Olympic games. 

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L.A. Dodgers Pitcher, Hart Grad Trevor Bauer Donates $51,000 In First Month Of ‘Ks For A Cause’

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Los Angeles Dodgers Trevor Bauer
Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers

In the first month of his season-long giveback initiative, Ks for a Cause, Hart High School graduate and Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Trevor Bauer donated $51,000 to a local nonprofit. 

Bauer donated $1,000 for each of his 51 strikeouts to Think Together, funding an afterschool science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and robotics program for middle school students in southeast Los Angeles.

Through Ks for a Cause, Bauer will provide financial support and highlight various local nonprofit organizations focused on STEM and youth programming in the greater Los Angeles area. 

This month, Bauer will support the Just Keep Livin Foundation, which is dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future. 

The organization, founded by Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves in 2008, implements after-school fitness and wellness programs in 39 inner-city high schools throughout the country. 

Just Keep Livin Foundation’s programs encourage students to make positive life choices that improve their physical and mental health through exercise, teamwork, gratitude, nutrition, and community service. Participating students also have a safe place to enhance their lives with fitness coaches and health experts.

Specifically, Bauer’s donation will help fund Just Keep Livin Foundation’s programming at Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School in Inglewood and Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles.

In addition to monetary support, Bauer is highlighting all Ks for a Cause organizations through a new, dedicated content series on his YouTube Channel and with limited-edition Ks for a Cause merchandise on his website. All proceeds from merchandise sales will benefit that month’s designated beneficiary organization.

Bauer is fully funding Ks for a Cause through grants via the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF). He has also partnered with LADF to evaluate potential partner organizations and to work with receiving organizations. For additional updates, visit here.

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L.A. Dodgers Pitcher, Hart Grad Trevor Bauer To Make Donation For Every Strikeout

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Los Angeles Dodgers Trevor Bauer
Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and William S. Hart High School graduate, has launched a season-long giveback initiative “Ks for a Cause” to support local nonprofit organizations.

Bauer is set to donate $1,000 per strikeout (K) throughout the regular season to charities focused on STEM and/or youth programming in the greater Los Angeles area, he announced this week. 

Each month, a different nonprofit organization will be designated. Bauer will fully fund the initiative through grants via the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF). He will also partner with LADF to evaluate potential partner organizations and to work with receiving organizations.

“This season, I’m looking forward to giving back to my hometown community in a meaningful way,” said Bauer in a statement. “I’m excited to launch Ks for a Cause to support several incredible nonprofit organizations doing impactful work to promote STEM and offer a variety of youth programming across the greater Los Angeles area. It’s really the perfect initiative for me, as it combines two things I love in life: strikeouts and helping others.”

Additionally, Bauer will highlight these organizations through a new, dedicated content series on his YouTube Channel and with limited-edition “Ks for a Cause” merchandise on his website.

All proceeds from merchandise sales will benefit that month’s designated beneficiary organization, according to Bauer.

For the month of April, Bauer will support Think Together. Founded in 1997, Think Together partners with schools to change the odds for kids. 

The organization delivers nationally recognized early learning programs, afterschool programs, student support services, and school improvement. Specifically, Bauer’s donation will help fund afterschool STEM and robotics programming for middle school students in southeast Los Angeles.

In his Dodgers debut on Friday, Bauer struck out 10 batters in 6 innings Friday, in an 11-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

After his first game, Bauer is expected to make a $10,000 donation to Think Together.

For additional updates, visit here.

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