What Caused Kobe Bryant's Helicopter Crash?

Kobe Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash one year ago today. And while fans mourn the death of the Los Angles Lakers legend and Gianna, a lot of questions are being asked, including what caused the crash that killed them and seven other people. Vanity Fair recently documented the events leading up to the crash. Bryant, Gianna and seven other people were headed to his sports academy for a youth basketball tournament.

15 minutes after taking off, the pilot, Ara Zobayan, requested permission from Burbank Airport air traffic controllers to enter its airspace. He had to request "special VFR" permission to fly through due to poor visibility. Zobayan had to circle around for 11 minutes because of air traffic and then was granted permission to enter the Burbank airspace.

"As they waited, the passengers in the back apparently chatted. Keri and John Altobelli told Bryant that one of their older daughters, Alexis, was interested in getting an internship with sports agent Scott Boras, who had represented athletes including Alex Rodriguez and Bryce Harper," Jeff Wise of Vanity Fair wrote. "John Altobelli was the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College and had met Boras in a professional capacity but didn't have his number. Could Bryant help out?"

At 9:44 a.m. local time, the helicopter was climbing to 4,000 feet to avoid cloud layer, Zobayan told air traffic controllers at the time. However, the helicopter climbed slightly before veering left and descending rapidly. Wise wrote:" Even as he spoke, the steepening bank was drawing the helicopter back into the clouds. The overcast grew darker once more. Though he didn't seem to realize it, Zobayan was not climbing but descending, and with increasing speed."

The crash happened at 9:45, and TMZ broke the news of the crash at 12:05 p.m. The National Transportation Safety Board hasn't determined the crash's actual cause, but that could change when a virtual hearing is held next month. The NTSB has ruled out engine and mechanical failure.


"I haven't seen anything to suggest something mechanical went wrong with the helicopter," Anthony Brickhouse, a former NTSB investigator, told the New York Post. "So what you do is your focus on the human element and the environmental element. You piece that puzzle back together. You crunch that information."