Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people passed away in a tragic helicopter crash in California on Sunday. Reports have confirmed that girls basketball coach Christina Mauser, Gigi's teammate Alyssa Altobelli and her parents John and Keri, Payton Chester and her mother Sarah Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan were the other victims of the tragic accident. The group of nine were travelling to the girls' basketball game in Thousand Oaks.
Kobe Bryant, four others killed in helicopter crash in Calabasas— Richard Winton (@LAcrimes) January 26, 2020
The death is five. The crash occurred in thick fog over Calabasas- I heard the copter and then boom, then a fire ball and small explosions on the hillside https://t.co/BwcmSKepv8
According to ESPN, the pilot contacted ATC before the crash, informing that the helicopter had begun ascension. ATC, however, told the pilot that they were too low for flight following and hence could not be picked up by the radar. The helicopter had been cleared for flight and took off from the John Wayne airport at 9:06 AM on Sunday. They flew from Boyle heights and circled Glendale before reaching the crash destinations.
According to reports, the helicopter turned left at 9:40 AM to head southeast. However, it disappeared into the fog surrounding the area. They were flying at around 2000 level above sea level with a speed of 184 mph. While crashing, the helicopter was reportedly travelling at a speed for 45 mph which is approximately 4,000 feet per minute. The Sikorsky S-76 crashed near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen street in Calabasas. Locals called 911 at 9:47 AM. Responders on the scene included 56 fire personnel (firefighters, a helicopter with paramedics and hand crews) and sheriff's deputies. According to the LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby, the fire had spread a quarter of an acre.
Though the exact reason for the crash is unknown, poor weather is the likely cause. Poor visibility near the area of Burbank (north of the helicopter) and Van Nuys (northwest of the helicopter) were reported. Weather control meteorologist Heather Tesch also reported low clouds and thick fog in the area.
According to reports, the National Transport Safety Board will be assigning a Go Team to find the actual cause for the crash. A report including the highlight findings should be released in 10 days. A detailed investigation about the pilot's history, chopper maintenance and record of the owner and operator will be conducted. Reports claim that an official statement about the crash might be released after a year.
Bryant's helicopter Sikorsky S-76 was made in 1991 and was one of his favoured models. Kurt Deetz, Bryant's former pilot, compared it to a limousine, saying that it was also maintained well. According to Deetz, helicopters like these have twin engines, which have an extremely low chance of crashing.
A witness who saw the helicopter before it crashed claimed that it did not sound right and was spluttering. It was also difficult to see because of the fog and was flying really low. The witness even heard a 'boom' noise and saw a big fireball. A group of mountain bikers who spotted the helicopter first alerted the authorities.