Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Crash: Everything We Know from New NTSB Report
New details have been released about Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash, which took the lives of nine victims.
According to a preliminary report by the NTSB, the wreckage did not show any signs of “catastrophic” engine failure.
NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in a statement, “Our investigators have already developed a substantial amount of evidence about the circumstances of this tragic crash. And we are confident that we will be able to determine its cause as well as any factors that contributed to it so we can make safety recommendations to prevent accidents like this from occurring again.”
The NTSB wrote that pilot Ara Zobayan was navigating the flight with on-demand visual flight rules from John Wayne Airport to Camarillo Airport.
From the preliminary report, all the major components of the helicopter were found within the wreckage area, which was about “127 feet from the impact.”
According to the report, a post-crash fire damaged the entire fuselage, cabin, and both engines. The cockpit and flight controls suffered extreme fragmentation. The instruments in the aircraft were “displaced” from their panel.
By examining the main and tail rotor assemblies, the parts exhibited “damage consistent with powered rotation at the time of impact.”
The rotor blades were also recovered, showing “similar damage consisting of midspan bending, pocket separation, blade tip separation, and leading-edge indentations and scuffing.”
On January 26, Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were heading to the Mamba Academy youth basketball camp in Thousand Oaks when the helicopter hit a mountain in Calabasas, California.
The report included testimony from a witness, who provided a photo of the burning helicopter five minutes after the crash. The report stated, “The witness stated that the area was surrounded by mist. He said he began to hear the sound of a helicopter, which he described as appropriate for a helicopter flying while in a powered condition. He perceived the sound getting louder and saw a blue and white helicopter emerge from the clouds passing from left to right directly to his left. He judged it to be moving fast, traveling on a forward and descending trajectory. It started to roll to the left such that he caught a glimpse of its belly. He observed it for 1 to 2 seconds, before it impacted terrain about 50 feet below his position.”
Before it went down, other eyewitnesses stressed that they were only able to hear the helicopter and were unable to see it through the dense fog.
“Extra's” Samantha Harris was on location in Calabasas just after the accident.
Harris spoke to Scott Daehlin, who was outside a nearby church just before the chopper went down. He described the chopper hovering directly above him before moving off and crashing.
Jerry Kocharian was also outside the church, and told Harris he heard the crash and saw smoke and fire in the distance.
Last week, NTSB spokeswoman Jennifer Homendy told reporters that the chopper was descending at a rate of 2,000 feet per minute, causing a “high-energy impact.”
Homendy noted that the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter did not have a “terrain awareness and warning system,” or TAWS, which alerts pilots when they are too close to the ground. As of right now, the FAA only requires the system in air ambulances.
She said there were no cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorders on board, which may have assisted in the investigation. An iPad and phone were recovered at the scene, but it is unknown at this time to whom they belonged.
The NTSB is looking at weather and other factors, and has obtained maintenance and airworthiness records. Interviews with air traffic controllers and the helicopter's operators are underway.
A detailed follow-up report from the NTSB will be issued in 12 to 18 months.