The helicopter crash that took the life of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna and seven other people has raised questions. The crash happened on Sunday morning outside the Los Angeles area and with the weather conditions being foggy, there are some who are wondering why the helicopter was allowed to fly. Robert Ditchey, a longtime airplane pilot, aeronautical engineer and former airline executive spoke to USA Today about the accident and he said the weather played a big factor in the crash.
"This was totally avoidable, and on the part of some people I can go as far as to say irresponsible" Ditchey said. "Here's one of the most important people in the world who comes to a tragic end like this and you say, 'Why? What the hell happened?'"
It was reported that the helicopter was flying too low to be tracked by air traffic control before it crashed. Ditchey said helicopters can fly low as long they have reasonable visibility, which is at least one mile. But at the reported speed the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was going, there was very little time to avoid disaster.
"They're in the fog, and you're down hugging the ground trying to fly up the highway and barely able to see it," Ditchey said. "He's down only 100 feet or so above the ground. In that area of the San Fernando Valley you have mountains on either side of you … and the clouds have obscured them, and you don't have that much room to maneuver."
"The pilot advised they were climbing to avoid a cloud layer," Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board said in a news conference. "When ATC asked what the pilot planned to do, there was no reply. Radar data indicates the helicopter climbed to 2,300 feet (701 meters) and then began a left descending turn. Last radar contact was around 9:45 a.m."
Bryant, Gianna and the other six passengers were flying to the Mamba Sports Academy for a basketball tournament Gianna was playing in. The reason Bryant was flying to the academy was to avoid the L.A. traffic. The loss of Bryant came hours prior to the Grammy Awards at the Staples Center, which is considered "The House that Kobe Built." Fans paid tribute to Bryant by going to the Staples Center and leaving flowers and photos.