The National Transportation Safety Board is looking at the phones and other devices of the nine people who were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 near Calabasas, CA, including Kobe Bryant. According to the Los Angeles Times, the investigators are hoping the late passengers' cellphones, along with the pilot's iPad, can help give a better understanding of what occurred before the crash. They also believe the craft was flying low enough that it would've been in range of nearby cell phone towers.
The crash occurred at roughly 10 a.m. PST that Sunday morning, and took the life of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser and the pilot Ara Zobayan.
The NTSB's investigation is still ongoing, though engine failure has already been ruled out as a potential cause. The Sikorsky S-76B copter was equipped with several features, however, it didn't have a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), which could have alerted Zobayan if he was pointed in the direction of any terrain covered by clouds. The board has previously recommended requiring the equipment for large aircraft carrying passengers, but it's still optional at this time.
As the L.A. Times noted, Zobayan had asked air traffic controllers for permission to fly in less than normal visibility as he was hoping to climb above the layer of clouds. At one point the copter reached 2,300 feet above sea level before it turned left and crashed into a mountainside at 1,085 feet while at high speed.
Prior to the crash, the copter was forced to circle above the Los Angeles Zoo for 11 minutes while waiting for an all-clear. While the LAPD had grounded flights that morning due to cloudy conditions, private jets and other helicopters were reportedly passing through the area as well. The investigation has also raised significant concerns about the possibility of future crashes until fundamental changes to flight protocol are made.0comments
Bryant and his daughter were quietly laid to rest last week at a private service and were buried near the family home in Orange County, CA.
While there have been countless tributes to the NBA star, as well as his daughter, in the wake of the tragedy, there will be a public memorial at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on Feb. 24 to honor their memories.