As fans continue to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant, new details have emerged on why he and his wife, Vannessa, tried to avoid taking helicopter rides together.
The NBA star and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, along with seven others, died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday. Kobe and Gigi frequently took the helicopter together to attend her basketball games, with Vanessa and the rest of their daughters staying behind.
A source who is friends with the Bryant family tells ET: "Kobe and Vanessa tried whenever possible to not take a helicopter together in fear of what could happen if something went wrong. However, the couple did ride together in a helicopter several times." The source recalls the couple "spent Valentine’s Day 2015 riding around in one."
There was not a pact between the couple, the source says. They simply tried to avoid it when they could, but there were exceptions. The source also notes that with a full house of kids, traveling together wasn’t even an option sometimes.
"Another reason Kobe and Vanessa also didn’t ride together in a helicopter often is because they had several children with different schedules. They were always being pulled in various directions," the source says.
The Los Angeles Laker often used his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter as his means for transportation, to beat heavy traffic and spend more time with his family.
“Traffic started getting really, really bad. And I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing, like, a school play, because I was sitting in traffic,” Kobe said in a 2018 interview. “I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time. So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back [from home in Orange County to practice in Los Angeles] in 15 minutes.”
Meanwhile, Kobe's former helicopter pilot, Kurt Deetz, remembered the athlete as "gracious" and "professional." Deetz flew the NBA legend in his helicopter for two years, from 2015 to 2017, and told ET that he flew the basketball star "every home game, every practice, and then after retirement, [for] events, meetings, family outings."
"[He gave] a lot of head nods and thumbs up and waves. I respected him. He respected me. I was there to do a job and just fly," Deetz said. "That was enough. That's acknowledgment."
On Wednesday, Vanessa released a statement, expressing her heartbreak and devastation, as well as her gratitude for the monumental outpouring of love and condolences.
"My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri," she wrote, in part, alongside a family photo. "We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately."
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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to MambaOnThree.org. To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit MambaSportsFoundation.org. Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️
For more on Kobe and his daughter, watch below.