The National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary investigation into the Jan. 26 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant found the helicopter's engine did not fail. There were no survivors in the crash, which also killed Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant. The final investigative report will be issued in about a year.
Although the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter had many luxury features, the aircraft did not have a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), which could tell pilots if they are pointed in the direction of a hill or mountain covered by clouds, the NTSB found, reports USA Today. The NTSB has recommended requiring the equipment for large aircraft carrying passengers, but it is still optional.
The helicopter was being piloted by Ara Zobayan, whose license allowed him to fly visually and with instruments. However, Zobayan was flying by sight at the time of the crash, following along the Southern California freeways. However, as they got close to the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, weather worsened. The helicopter crashed in Calabasas.
During the flight, Zobayan asked air traffic controllers for permission to fly with less than normal visibility, as he hoped to climb above the cloud layer. He reached 2,300 feet above sea level, then turned left before crashing into the mountains at 1,085 feet, investigators said. He was crashed at a high speed.
Investigators found Zaboyan missed hitting the top of the hill by 30 feet, but there were still higher hills in the area he would have to fly around.
The full investigation will determine if the cause of the crash was mechanical error or pilot crash. Unfortunately, the helicopter did not have cockpit voice of flight data recorders, also known as a "black box." The NTSB will have to examine the wreckage to reach a conclusion.
Bryant and Gianna were on their way to a basketball tournament at the Mamba Academy. The other victims of the cash were Zaboyan, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and Payton Chester.
Bryant, 41, spent his entire NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers and retired in 2016. He won five NBA championships and two Olympic gold medals.
In 2018, Bryant and animator Glen Keane won the Oscar for Best Animated Shot for Dear Basketball, making Bryant the first professional athlete to win an Oscar. Bryant will be included in Sunday's in memoriam segment at the Oscars.
"I think the In Memoriam segment has always been an important part of the show and this year is no different in that we're honoring all of our community that we've lost," Oscars producer Stephanie Allain said earlier this week. "I think what's really appropriate is that Kobe was part of the film community, and as such, he will be embraced within the In Memoriam segment."
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