Payton, left, and her mother, Sarah, were two of the nine victims who died in Sunday’s helicopter crash.
(Courtesy of the Chester family.)
Mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester were among the nine victims of the plane crash.
The Chester family expressed their devastation in a statement shared via St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, where Payton was a student.
“Sarah and Payton were the lights of our family,” the statement said. “Payton had a smile and personality that would light any room, and a passion for the game of basketball. She found joy on any court and loved all of her teammates and coaches. Sarah was full of life and the glue of our family. She was a tireless force in support of her family. The love we feel from so many today is a testament to the community she created for us. Our prayers and condolences go out to the Bryant, Altobelli, and Mauser families. We were all blessed to be a part of Team Mamba, and we will always remember the fun and love that we all shared. We also send our prayers and condolences to the Zobayan family.”
Todd Schmidt, former principal of Harbor View Elementary, shared the news of their deaths on Facebook, alongside photos of a beaming Payton.
“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important ... their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken,” he wrote. “You were both the embodiment of #hvepride, and the world is just a little less without you both in it. May you both Rest In Peace and know the deep impact you had on our lives. You will be so sorely missed.”
Payton attended Harbor View from kindergarten through fifth grade, according to posts shared on Facebook.
On Instagram, Payton’s brother Riley shared a photo of his mother and sister that paid tribute to his family.
“Rest In Peace to the most amazing Mother and sister. I love you Pay Pay and Mom RIP❤️❤️,” he wrote.
Officials with Newport-Mesa Unified School District expressed sadness over the loss of those who died in the plane crash but refrained from commenting further on specifics surrounding the victims.
“There are no words to describe the unthinkable pain than many families are facing as a result of this incident. Our school community has been impacted by this tragedy and we have mobilized specialized support teams to assist our schools through the grief that a loss like this can cause,” public relations officer Annette Franco said. “Out of respect for those impacted, we will not be sharing any additional information.”
Sarah Chester’s Facebook page is filled with photos of her family of five at the beach and dressed up for holiday celebrations and family vacations. In several, Payton stands smiling between her twin brothers, wearing a school uniform or beach attire. In one, she’s dressed up as the Dr. Seuss character the Cat in the Hat, with a brother on each side dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2.
A representative of Tustin Memorial Academy in Santa Ana said Sarah Chester previously worked at the school as a teacher and had left to dedicate more time to her family.
Lainie Johnson-Mann, the mother of one of Sarah Chester’s former students, described her as a proud mom who dedicated herself to her children.
“Family was her world,” she said.
Chester taught Johnson-Mann’s son Travis, 27, when he was in kindergarten. The news left the family reeling.
“The world lost a beloved athlete and a basketball star. But in our world, the people that knew Sarah lost far more,” she said.
In a statement Monday, the city of Newport Beach named each of the nine victims.
“As information was released throughout Sunday on additional victims of the Calabasas helicopter accident, tragedy was compounded upon tragedy as it became clear that other beloved and respected members of the Newport Beach and Orange County communities were traveling with Kobe and Gianna Bryant. We wish to extend our deepest, deepest condolences to the families, friends, and neighbors of John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Christina Mauser, as well as Sarah Chester, [Payton] Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan during this devastating time.”
— Colleen Shalby