Safety Officials Determine Pilot In Kobe Bryant Crash Was Disoriented In Clouds
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has ruled that Ara Zobayan, the pilot flying the helicopter in which Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed was likely disoriented before the crash.
Zobayan, who often transported Bryant, was “flying under visual flight orders, or VFR, which legally prohibited him from penetrating the clouds,” but he continued to fly into the clouds, said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
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In June, the NTSB said Zobayan told air traffic controllers that the helicopter was attempting to ascend out of the clouds, when the aircraft was actually descending before crashing into a mountain near Calabasas, California. Zobayan may have “misperceived” the course of the helicopter’s descent, according to the NTSB.
“I am saddened by this crash. We use the term ‘crash’ rather than ‘accident,’ but I think it is rather important to understand the distinction. An accident is something unforeseen, unpredictable. Unfortunately, this wasn’t,” said NSTB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg. “We know what happened, and we have a very good idea of why it happened, and we absolutely know how to prevent these crashes.”
The NTSB officials came to the ruling just over a year after the deadly crash on January 26, 2020. Bryant and the other passengers were traveling to a basketball game at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California in a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter that departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California.
Due to the rain and fog that morning, the Los Angeles Police Department helicopters and most other air traffic were grounded. At 9:30 a.m., Zobayan contacted the Burbank Airport’s control tower and was told he was “flying too low” to be tracked by radar. After experiencing heavy fog, the helicopter turned south towards the mountains.
At 9:45 a.m., the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and began burning. The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner stated that the official cause of death of the passnegers on the helicopter was blunt force trauma.
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