Photo by Derek Owens on Unsplash

It’s been over a year since the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and eight others in a helicopter crash. Rumors and finger-pointing over the cause of the tragedy have circulated, but federal safety officials announced the probable cause of the crash today.

The helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California, while en route from John Wayne Airport to Camarillo Airport in thick fog, killing all nine passengers on board. The autopsy showed no drugs or alcohol in the pilot’s system, and that all nine people most likely died on impact or very soon after. 

According to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner- Coroner’s report, all nine people died of blunt trauma and all were ruled accidents. The reports also show how brutal the crash was, describing broken bones, dismembered body parts, and a stench of fuel on what remained of clothing that burned.

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The National Transportation Safety Board said there was no sign of mechanical failure, and it was ruled an accident

In a meeting Feb. 9, the National Transportation Safety Board investigators described the crash as preventable, the pilot as experienced, and his employer as a generally safe charter operation. 

The board said the pilot “pushed the limits” of flying in bad weather, and abandoned his training when he got caught in the fog.

“Even good pilots can end up in bad situations,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

Sunwalt said the pilot could have landed the plane at the closest airport which was less than 12 miles away, or even in a parking lot “all the way up to the point where [the pilot] entered the clouds.”

The board recommended federal policy changes to prevent further devastating crashes like this one. They recommend black boxes, which are the flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders. They also recommend further pilot training to avoid flying directly into clouds.

The NTSB has no enforcement powers, but is a federal agency that investigates crashes. Upon their investigation, they have submitted suggestions to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

The FAA said it “takes NTSB recommendations very seriously and will respond preliminarily to them within 90 days.”

On Jan. 26, 2020, people around the world mourned the death of legendary basketball star Kobe Bryant and Gianna. Bryant was flying in a helicopter to a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy, in Newbury Park. He was scheduled to coach the game, and his daughter Gianna was on the team.

Other passengers on the flight included John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and daughter Payton Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan. 

The crash sparked multiple lawsuits and countersuits. 

Vanessa Bryant sued Zobayan and companies that owned and operated the helicopter for negligence and the wrongful deaths of her husband and daughter. She said Island Express Helicopters Inc. did not “properly train” Zobayan, ultimately leading to the death of Kobe and Gianna.

She said flying in the fog was negligent and careless and the flight should’ve been aborted.

Multiple family members of other victims sued the helicopter companies, but Bryant was the only one to sue Zobayan.

Island Express Helicopters Inc. said the crash was “an act of God” it couldn’t control, denying responsibility.

Written ByHaley Weger

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