The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that the pilot of the helicopter that crashed while carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and six other passengers in January 2020, killing all aboard, may have illegally flown through a cloud and likely became disoriented just before the crash.
During a public board meeting to determine the probable cause of the fatal Sikorsky S-76B helicopter crash near Calabasas, CA just over a year ago, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said pilot Ara Zobayan was flying under visual flight rules, meaning he needed to be able to see where he was going.
Officials said Zobayan climbed sharply and nearly had broken through the clouds when the helicopter that was traveling from John Wayne airport in Santa Ana to Camarillo Airport banked abruptly and plunged into the hills below, killing all nine aboard instantly.
The NTSB over the summer had released reports indicating that Zobayan was disoriented by thick fog. Zobayan was actually descending but reported that he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above clouds, earlier reports said.
There was no black box on the helicopter, making the NTSB’s investigation more difficult.
Bryant’s widow Vanessa has since filed lawsuits against Island Express Helicopters and its parent company over the crash, as well as the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department for taking and disseminating photos from the crash site.
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