A week after Kobe Bryant's untimely passing, the Los Angeles County Fire Department has released five 911 calls detailing the crash, which killed the icon, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others.
In the calls, witnesses revealed what they heard and saw. One caller said, “I'm walking in the trail, I could hear the plane, I think it was in the clouds, but couldn't see it. Then we just heard a 'boom' and a dead sound and then I could see the flames.”
Another man, who was at a grocery store nearby, told dispatchers, “A helicopter crashed into a mountain, we heard it, and now I'm looking at the flames… We're looking at the flames right now on the hills.”
Another caller referenced instrument flight rules and pointed out that the mountain was obscured by clouds, saying, “It went over my head. It's thick in clouds. And then I heard a pop and it immediately stopped. I can't see it… If this guy doesn't have night vision, I mean, he was, he's completely IFR.”
The New York Times reported that Island Express Helicopters, which owned the Sikorsky S-76B, did not have the necessary federal certification for its pilots to fly under instrument flight rules.
When pilots use instruments to fly, they are using their cockpit gauges to navigate in instrument meteorological conditions, such as inside clouds.
In his final message to air traffic control, pilot Ara Zobayan told them that he was ascending to avoid a cloud layer. Witnesses reported that they saw the helicopter fly through clouds and fog before it went down in Calabasas.
The helicopter was cleared for takeoff in Orange County, where there was four miles of visibility.
Last week, Island Express announced that it was suspending all regular and charter services, but did not comment on the certification reports.