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By Zach Cavanagh

St. Margaret’s eighth-grader Payton Chester and her mother Sarah were two of the nine people that died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Sunday, Jan. 27.

“Yesterday we lost our mother and wife, Sarah, and sister and daughter, Payton,” the Chester family said in a statement on Monday. “We are devastated by this loss. Sarah and Payton were the lights of our family. We are thankful for the love and support of our family, friends and community. Please allow us privacy to grieve during this time.”

The Chesters are survived by husband and father Chris and sons and brothers Hayden and Riley. The brothers both attend St. Margaret’s and are 16 years old.

Payton Chester, 13, was an eighth grader at St. Margaret’s in San Juan Capistrano. Payton and her mother Sarah died in a helicopter crash that also took the lives of seven others, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant, on Sunday, Jan. 26. Photo: Chester Family

“We are a community in deep mourning over (this) unimaginable loss,” St. Margaret’s Episcopal School said in a statement. “On behalf of our entire St. Margaret’s community, we send our love and prayers to surround the entire Chester family in this devastating time of loss.”

The crash also took the lives of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan. There were no survivors.

“Our prayers and condolences go out to the Bryant, Altobelli, and Mauser families,” the Chester family statement read. “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.”

The Chesters and the rest of the victims were flying through the foggy weather to Bryant’s youth basketball academy in Newbury Park, the Mamba Sports Academy, for a travel basketball game.

Payton Chester, 13, was a middle school basketball player at St. Margaret’s and a member of the Team Mamba academy team.

“Payton had a smile and personality that would light any room, and a passion for the game of basketball,” the Chester family said. “She found joy on any court and loved all of her teammates and coaches.”

Sarah Chester, 45, was a mother, sister and daughter in a close and loving family.

“Sarah was full of life and the glue of our family,” the Chester family said. “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.”

The Chesters came to the St. Margaret’s school from Harbor View Elementary in Corona del Mar. Todd Schmidt, a former principal at Harbor View, posted his feelings for the Chester family on Facebook.

“As a principal, we work with some amazing families…the Chesters were one of those…engaged, supportive, encouraging, and full of mischief and laughter…and they had the best kiddos!” Schmidt wrote. “This family made such a huge impact at Harbor View…they were genuine, kind-hearted, and caring…to the staff, to other families…and yes, especially to me.”

“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian (Bryant), 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.”

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at

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