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Kobe Bryant crash: Investigators release details of helicopter’s final moments

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The pilot of the helicopter which crashed in Los Angeles killing NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter may have become disorientated in heavy fog, investigators believe.

Moments before the fatal accident on 26 January, Ara Zobayan radioed to air traffic control that he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above clouds. In fact, the helicopter was plunging towards a hillside where it crashed northwest of LA.

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board said Zobayan may have “misperceived’’ the pitch of the aircraft, which can happen when a pilot becomes disoriented in low visibility.


Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six of their friends were killed, along with Zobayan.

About 45 minutes before takeoff, Zobayan had texted a group of people overseeing the flight that the weather was looking “OK”. He took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m. with the eight passengers he had flown the day before to the same destination: a girls basketball tournament at the retired Lakers star’s sports academy north of Los Angeles. When the helicopter hadn’t landed within an hour, an executive of the company that operated the craft began a frantic search for the craft on tracking software and had another company chopper dispatched to look for it.

“The weird thing, though, is that the tracker had stopped at 9:45 am which is not normal and we were trying to reach Ara over the radio,’’ noted Whitney Bagge, vice president of Island Express Helicopters. “I kept refreshing the tracker praying that it was just broken.’’

The NTSB previously said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76.

Additional reporting by AP

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