Friends grappling with the unexpected death of Alyssa Altobelli gathered in Newport Beach Thursday to remember the 14-year-old who died alongside her parents in Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash.
The group of hundreds packed Mariners Park on Irvine Avenue beginning around 5 p.m. to pay tribute to the Ensign Intermediate School student, and release paper lanterns into the sky to honor all the lives lost.
“Although she only got 14 years of life, I’m glad she lived it to the fullest,” said one girl who spoke at the vigil. “So please, tell your loved ones you love them and keep them close to you, because life can always turn at any moment.”
Alyssa was the starting point guard for her school's basketball team, which retired her No. 5 jersey during a school assembly earlier Thursday. During the ceremony, one classmate sang a song composed in her honor, said Annette Franco, a spokesperson for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
Alyssa was headed to a game for her club team at the Mamba Academy with her parents, Keri and John Altobelli, along with teammates and friends including Kobe and Gianna Bryant when their helicopter crashed Sunday in the hills above Calabasas.
Franco said Alyssa's classmates have been trying to find different ways to deal with the loss, and a support dog has been brought in to help. They've been leaving notes on the desks she used, some of which have been moved to the front of their classrooms. A small basketball hoop was put up on one of her desks.
At Thursday evening's candlelight vigil, some friends publicly shared memories of Alyssa. One recalled recently going with her to see “Frozen 2,” where Alyssa “fell in love with the song ‘Lost in the Woods.’”
“Mr. Altobelli and Alyssa would always sing it on the way to practice, and even during practice they’d sometimes sing it to each other,” she said. “It’s crazy to think that now, I’ll be lost in the woods without her.”