A Filipina American coach was one of nine passengers, along with basketball icon Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, killed in the helicopter that crashed outside Los Angeles on Sunday, January 26.
Christina Mauser, 38, was an assistant coach for Gianna Bryant’s Mamba Academy basketball team, a job that 41-year-old Bryant hand-selected Mauser for.
The passengers aboard the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter were traveling to a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, when the crash occurred in Calabasas.
In a phone interview on the “TODAY” show on Monday, Mauser’s husband Matt shared that she leaves behind three young children ages 3, 9 and 11.
“I got three small kids and am trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom,” Matt Mauser said in the interview.
He also shared that Bryant selected Mauser for the assistant coach position and called her a “Mother of Defense.”
“Kobe brought her on (to the Mambas) to teach the kids defense,” he said. “He didn’t really understand zone defense because he never played it in high school or college. They called her the Mother of Defense. MOD.”
For 11 years, Mauser was a physical education teacher and basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Corona Del Mar, where Gianna was a student.
“He didn’t choose Christina [as his assistant coach] for just any ordinary reason,” Matt Mauser said. “She was extraordinary…She was warm, incredibly bright, technologically savvy.”
Mauser’s cousin Melanie Ramil wrote on Facebook, “My beautiful, loving cousin Christina Mauser was one of those who perished in the crash. We are beyond heartbroken. I share this to ask for your prayers for our family, especially her husband and three young kids, and to hug your loves so tightly today and always.”
In addition to the Bryants and Mauser, the victims of Sunday’s crash were also Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa; Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton; and Ara Zobayan, who was Bryant’s private pilot. Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester both also played for Mamba Academy as well.
Gianna was expected to play in a game, while Bryant coached, Lady Mavericks team director Evelyn Morales told CNN.
“I just want people to know how amazing my wife was,” Matt Mauser said in an interview with ABC News. “I want everybody to know not only about my wife, but about the other people on that helicopter that were amazing people. Including Gianna and KB. It was a helicopter full of incredibly talented, hardworking, sweet, kind, fantastic people.”