Kobe Bryant Crash: Helicopter Pilot May Have Been Disoriented, Investigators Say

Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter that crashed and resulted in the deaths of Kobe Bryant and seven other passengers, may have been disoriented due to low visibility, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board. Zobayan reported the helicopter was ascending when it was actually heading to the ground before the crash. Per investigators, the pilot told air traffic control he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above the clouds. However, the helicopter headed towards a mountain before crashing just outside Los Angeles.

"Calculated apparent angles at this time show that the pilot could have misperceived both pitch and roll angles," one report stated via ESPN. "During the final descent the pilot, responding to [air traffic control], stated that they were climbing to four thousand." According to John Cox who is an aviation safety consultant, Zobayan's erratic flight path was a sign of him being disoriented, which is one of the common factors that can cause accidents in the sky.

"He is not the first person to experience it," Cox said. "It's a significant cause of accidents." The report, which is 1,700 pages long, doesn't offer a conclusion of what caused the crash. However, there will be a final report, which will be released at a later date. The helicopter was flying to Bryant's sports academy in Thousand Oaks, California for a basketball tournament. The flight departure was delayed 15 minutes due to the weather.

Bryant's widow, Vanessa, filed a lawsuit against the pilot, the helicopter company Island Express and the owner of the helicopter for negligence. The lawsuit was filed in February, and Vanessa argued the pilot shouldn't have been flying in the conditions at the time. In response to Vanessa's claim, a representative for the pilot claimed the passengers on board were responsible for the crash.

"Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility," the representative stated per TMZ. The other passengers killed in the crash were Bryant's daughter Gianna, Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who coached along with Bryant on his daughter's basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton.