11th February, 2021
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined the cause of the January 26, 2020, crash that killed NBA legend, Kobe Bryant.
The accident claimed the lives of others: John Altobelli, 56, longtime head coach of Southern California’s Orange Coast College baseball team; his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Bryant’s daughter; and Christina Mauser, a girls’ basketball coach at a Southern California elementary school.
The chopper took off after 9 a.m. from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, heading to Camarillo Airport for the second day of a weekend tournament at the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks.
NTSB concluded that the helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan, should not have flown into cloudy conditions.
Investigators found that his decision to fly resulted in his spatial disorientation and loss of control of the aircraft.
Zobayan’s “likely” self-induced pressure to get Bryant to his destination and inadequate review of safety management procedures by helicopter operator Island Express contributed to the crash, the board said.
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said flying under visual flight rules through cloud cover was “legally prohibited”.
The board said Zobayan made a “poor decision” to fly at excessive speed in bad weather, and the helicopter was not in a controlled flight pattern when it crashed into the hillside near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street at 9:45 a.m.
NTSB member, Michael Graham regretted that the pilot ignored his training, adding that as long as helicopters continue to fly into clouds while using visual flight rules “a certain percentage will not come out alive.”
Bryant, 41, was travelling with his daughter and seven other passengers and crew when the Sikorsky S-76 slammed into a rugged hillside in thick fog in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles.