The manufacturer of the helicopter that crashed and killed Kobe Bryant and eight others had reportedly taken steps to make sure other fliers of the same model, the Sikorsky S-76, add a critical piece of software critical for maintaining safety. Bryant's S-76B model was not equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed after the crash. The feature was optional up until 2005; Bryant's aircraft was built in 1991.
Sources familiar with manufacturing company Sikorsky told TMZ that before Bryant's crash, the company frequently reached out to customers of older S-76 models to urge them to implement new safety measures like TAWS. The company reportedly regularly notifies customers of new technology offerings.
In the aftermath of the crash, the NTSB also revealed that Bryant's helicopter did not have a cockpit voice or flight data recorder (also known as a black box) because those were not standard until recently. Sikorsky told TMZ that TAWS and a black box have been standard since their 2012 S-76D model.
The NTSB first recommended mandatory black boxes and warning systems in 2006 following a crash the year before, but neither are currently mandated by the FAA for commercial flights. The NTSB said it previously made two safety recommendations to the FAA about the warning system and the black box.
Sikorsky told TMZ that it was deeply saddened by the crash and is "actively supporting the NTSB investigation," adding that "Safety is our top priority. If there are any actionable findings from the investigation, we will immediately inform our S-76 customers."
Sunday morning's crash was ruled an accident. The NTSB identified all nine victims: Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan. The group was on its way to one of Gianna, Alyssa and Payton's basketball tournaments at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy, where Bryant and Mauser were both coaches.
All nine victims died of blunt force trauma.
Foggy conditions Sunday morning were likely a key factor in the crash. Zobayan, a veteran pilot, was flying under "Special Visual Flight Rules," which allows him to fly in severe weather conditions, when the chopper ran into weather issues while it flew only 875 feet in the air above the Los Angeles Zoo. Zobayan contacted Burbank Airport's control at 9:30 a.m. PT, then moved along the 118 freeway before turning west to follow the 101 freeway. Zobayan then flew into heavy fog and climbed up to 2,000 feet to try to avoid the cloud cover. Shortly after that, the helicopter crashed into the mountains at 1,700 feet.