*The bodies of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday have been recovered from a Calabasas hillside, coroner officials confirmed Tuesday.
Fans of the NBA star have taken to social media to express condolences to Kobe’s wife Vanessa, 37, who wed the late NBA icon in April 2001, when he was just 22 and she was 18.
“It’s an extremely difficult and devastating time for Vanessa and the whole family,” a friend of the family tells PEOPLE of the Bryants’ family.
Another insider tells the publication that Vanessa is “devastated.”
“She can hardly keep it together,” the insider says. “She can’t finish a sentence without crying. But she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls. She now has to be the strong one.”
The insider notes, “Of course, you can never be prepared for this. Despite their ups and downs, [Vanessa and Kobe] were soulmates. She thought of him as her partner for life.”
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Keep thinking of Vanessa Bryant and how she still has to be a mother and find a way to protect and console her children despite her entire universe being turned upside down and the whole world watching. Praying for all those families.
— bolu babalola (@BeeBabs) January 28, 2020
The widowed mother of four “is surrounded by people who love her and love Kobe. She has a good support system. She is relying on her faith. She is not alone. But she will be grieving this for a very long time,” the second source explains.
Kobe, 41 and Gianna along with seven other people — including the pilot, died in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
“This was a pretty devastating accident,” National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jennifer Homendy said. “There is an impact area on one of the hills, and a piece of the tail is down the hill on the left side of the hill. The fuselage is on the other side of that hill. Then the main rotor is about hundred yards beyond that. The debris field is about 500 to 600 feet.”
A friend close to the family told PEOPLE that the late Lakers star was “so proud to see [his daughters] take after not only him and Vanessa, but also grow into their own. He had a special bond with each of his daughters.”
I don’t care what anyone says, Vanessa Bryant does not owe anyone a public statement, she does not owe a public memorial, she does not owe anyone anything. She lost her daughter and husband. She is grieving and all we can do is pray for her and everyone else affected.
— sandy ? (@sandyettevi) January 28, 2020
Bryant dedicated a sweet tribute to Vanessa on Instagram last November in celebration of the day they first met.
“On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses) I love you my mamacita per sempre,” Bryant captioned a throwback photo of the young couple at the time theme park in Anaheim, California. (see post below)
Kobe previously told Maria Shriver: “Being a father is the thing I am most proud of in this world; it’s my greatest accomplishment. I’ve learned so much, but perhaps the most profound thing has been the fierce, unconditional love you have for your children when you become a parent. I’m blessed to have had that experience four times now and there’s nothing more powerful in this world.”
Authorities are still investigating potential causes of the crash, but overcast skies and fog conditions might have played a role.
Kobe leaves behind wife Vanessa, daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, three, seven-month-old Capri.