During the NBA All-Star Weekend Newsmaker Brunch in Chicago on Saturday, former president Barack Obama delivered a touching speech in honor of Kobe Bryant and the eight others, including his daughter Gianna, 13, killed in a helicopter crash last month.
“That loss is something that I know many are still grappling with,” Obama told attendees, Deadline reports. He added, “particularly Kobe because he was with his daughter and those families, and those children.”
Kobe and Obama were friends and the former POTUS previously invited the Los Angeles Lakers to the White House in 2009 in honor of them winning the NBA championship.
TheGrio previously reported, in addition to Kobe and Gigi, Christina Mauser, 38; Sarah Chester, 45, and her daughter Payton, 13; along with the pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50, John Altobelli, 56; his wife, Keri Altobelli, 46; and their 13-year-old daughter, Alyssa all lost their lives when their helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California on the morning on Jan. 26.
The helicopter was transporting Kobe, 41, his daughter and the other players and parents to Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a girls’ basketball game. The girls were teammates on the same basketball team, which Kobe and Mauser coached.
The day of the crash was so foggy that the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division grounded all of its helicopters until later in the day, LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein told the Los Angeles Times.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating the crash and a final report could take as long as a year to be complete, according to the Times. The NTSB had previously recommended that helicopters be equipped with a safety feature known as a terrain warning system, which could have saved the passengers on board.
During his speech, Obama noted that the deaths of the teenagers were especially “heartbreaking.”
“Those of us who have had the joy and privilege of being parents and taking kids to ballgames, and then rooting for our children, and seeing our dreams and hopes passed on to them. Nothing is more heartbreaking,” he said.
A public memorial for the victims is scheduled to take place at the Staples Center on Feb. 24.