Friends of Alyssa Altobelli say she was a fierce point guard on the basketball court and a loyal friend who was determined to attend the University of Oregon in a few years.
Hundreds of people — many of them her peers at school — honored her with this remembrance and more at a park near the 14-year-old’s home in the Southern California city of Newport Beach on Thursday evening, video from CNN affiliates KABC and KTLA showed.
A crowd packed a baseball field for a candlelight vigil for Alyssa, who was among the nine people killed — including NBA legend Kobe Bryant and her parents — in a helicopter crash Sunday in the hills of Calabasas.
Some of her friends wore T-shirts in green and gold — the University of Oregon’s colors — with slogans that read “Live Like Lyssa.”
Friends took turns speaking about the eighth-grader with a microphone near the top of a baseball diamond, while a crowd sat in the outfield grass, listening.
“If she was smiling, other people were always smiling around her,” Ellie Robinson, one of her friends, told KABC. “She was respectful … She knew how to handle herself. She knew what to say … and she was nice and she was funny.”
Toward sunset, people released nine sky lanterns — one for each victim of the crash. Mourners then held candles as it got dark, while some of Alyssa’s favorite songs played on speakers.
Students are leaving notes on her desks at school
At Alyssa’s school, Ensign Intermediate in Newport Beach, mourning classmates have been leaving notes on desks that she had used, Annette Franco, a spokeswoman for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, told KTLA.
Before Thursday’s vigil, her school retired one of her No. 5 basketball jerseys at a ceremony, Franco told KTLA.
The teens and their parents were traveling to a basketball game
Alyssa and others aboard the helicopter were on their way to a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks when they crashed into a hillside in foggy conditions.
The crash killed all aboard: Bryant; Bryant’s daughter Gianna Bryant, 13; Alyssa and her parents, John Altobelli, 56 Keri Altobelli, 46; Payton Chester, 13, and her mother, Sarah Chester, 45; Christina Mauser, 38; and the pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50.
The girls were teammates on a basketball team coached by Bryant and Mauser.
John Altobelli was a longtime baseball coach for Orange Coast College. His team honored him before their season-opening game on Tuesday.
The cause of the crash has not been announced. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, says it will release a preliminary report in February. A final report will be released in about 12 to 18 months.