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Mourning Kobe Bryant: what’s known about the helicopter crash?

On a cloudy morning in California, the former NBA star was traveling in a helicopter with his daughter Gianna and seven others when tragedy struck.

On a cloudy morning in California, the former NBA star was traveling in a helicopter with his daughter Gianna and seven others when tragedy struck.
Danny MoloshokREUTERS

News broke out on 26 January 2020 that the basketball legend had died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California along with eight other people on board. Bryant was on his way to a youth basketball game with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna when the fatal accident occurred. He had used the helicopter for years, and this particular machine was actually the same one that brought him to his last game with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016.

Later in the year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its findings on what caused the crash.

NTSB: Pilot disorientation caused crash

The board declared that the primary reason the Sikorsky S-76B plummeted to the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains was pilot error. It is believed that pilot Ara Zobayan became disoriented after flying into low clouds and flew the helicopter into hilly terrain while trying to gain altitude. The report said the pilot made an unfortunate decision to continue flying in adverse weather conditions into an area where visibility was dismal.

The NTSB concluded that the pilot was flying fast- approximate speed was 160 miles per hour- and lost control of the helicopter after losing visual contact with the ground. The pilot was also believed to be under self-induced pressure to continue the flight to please his celebrity client.

Bryant crash: other contributory factors considered

The board said the company that operated the aircraft had an inadequate safety management process, which was also a factor in the accident. Other factors were ruled out as causes of the tragedy, including mechanical failure, air traffic control error, and pressure on the pilot from the charter company to continue the flight despite unsatisfactory weather conditions.

Vanessa Bryant wins against the state

While it’s hard to believe the sanctity of Kobe’s death was destroyed when it was learned that responding emergency personnel not only took photos of the crash scene, but distributed them. As a result of their unethical actions Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant entered into legal action against the state.

According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, lawyers representing Los Angeles County were unable to persuade a federal judge to bring an end to Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit. The case of course concerned the distribution of the horrific photos of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, her daughter Gianna and seven others. As per court records, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter rejected a county motion that would have seen the case dismissed, saying that “there are genuine issues of material facts for trial.”


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