The world was stunned to learn that NBA legend Kobe Bryant died on Sunday, Jan. 26 as a result of a helicopter crash. One day after the tragic incident, new details have been revealed about who else was on board the vehicle when it crashed. And tributes are already pouring in from those who knew the pilot of the helicopter, Ara Zobayan, who was also killed in the crash.
According to the Daily Mail, Zobayan was a veteran pilot who was even qualified to fly in the fog. The publication went on to report that the 50-year-old was a licensed commercial helicopter pilot for twelve years, a certified instructor for two years, and a ground instructor for eleven years. Friends of Zobayan have said that he was "not one to make mistakes" and was always "attentive" to Bryant and his family, who frequently traveled around Los Angeles by helicopter.
The Associated Press reported that Zobayan received special clearance to fly in heavy fog before the crash occurred. He later asked flight traffic controllers to provide "flight following" aide but was told that the aircraft was too low. They reported that the helicopter then tried to climb up in order to "avoid a cloud layer." Air traffic controllers reportedly later asked Zobayan what he planned to do but there was no reply.
"Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man. He was not your typical egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are," Zobayan's friend Jared Yochim after the incident, per the Daily Mail. "Ara was a man that always remained cool, calm and collected. As more people that knew Ara open up about him, you'll only hear words like professional, calculated and loving. He was always good for a laugh."
The late pilot has also been remembered by Kylie Jenner, who took to her Instagram Story on Monday to honor Zobayan, whom she explained flew her from time-to-time, as Us Weekly noted. The reality star also included a tribute to Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and several others who also died as a result of the crash.
"Rest in peace ... and prayers to these families," she wrote, captioning a photo of all of the victims. "I still can't believe this. That was the helicopter I would fly on from time to time with that pilot, Ara. He was such a nice man. Hold your loved ones close."
In December 2018, Bryant explained why he liked to travel by helicopter during an interview with Alex Rodriguez, as Us Weekly noted. According to the athlete, the method of transportation allowed him to spend more quality time with his family, which was the most important thing to him.0comments
"I was sitting in traffic and wound up missing, like, the school play because I was sitting in traffic. These things just kept mounting," he explained. "And I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft, but still not compromise family time. That's when I looked into helicopters to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes, and that's how it started."
"I was like, 'No, no, no, I want to do that,'" Bryant said, noting that he turned his wife, Vanessa Bryant, down when she offered up to pick up their daughters instead. "You have road trips and times when you don't see your kids, so every chance I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it's 20 minutes in a car, I want that."