Kobe Bryant Crash Gets NTSB Hearing in February to Determine Probable Cause

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a hearing will take place on Feb. 9 to determine the probable cause of the helicopter crash that killed Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in January 2020. In June, the NTSB said the helicopter pilot that crashed outside of Los Angeles likely became disoriented in the foggy weather. The board also said that pilots could become confused about an aircraft's altitude and acceleration when their visibility is limited.

"Without outside references or attention to the helicopter’s attitude display, the actual pitch and bank angles have the potential to be misperceived," the NTSB said in June, as reported by Yahoo Sports. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was among the nine people killed in the crash. Before the crash, Zobyan told air traffic controllers the helicopter was climbing out of heavy clouds when it was actually descending before crashing into a hillside area in Calabasas.

NTSB told reporters one day after the Jan. 26 crash that clouds and fog causing limited visibility will likely focus on the investigation. In February, the board said that an examination of the helicopter's engines and rotors found no evidence of "catastrophic mechanical failure."

The crash has led to several lawsuits. The most notable lawsuit is Bryant's wife, Vanessa, suing the pilot (Zobayan), the helicopter company Island Express and the helicopter owner for negligence. That lawsuit was filed in February. The helicopter company filed a lawsuit against the air traffic controllers, claiming they caused the crash.

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In that lawsuit, one of the air traffic controllers responded to Zobayan by saying, "I'm going to lose radar and comms probably pretty shortly, so you can just squawk VFR [visual flight rules] and when you get closer, go to Camarillo tower." The company claims that the controller denied the use of life-saving radar.

Bryant was 41 years old when he died. He played for the Lakers from 1996-2016 and is remembered as one of the best NBA players in history. He led the Lakers to five NBA Championships and was named NBA Finals MVP twice. Bryant won the MVP Award in 2008, was named an all-star 18 times and was selected to the All-NBA First Team 11 times.