Investigators seek answers to
chopper crash as NBA star, eight others mourned
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[January 28, 2020]
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -
Investigators will continue after sunrise Tuesday to sift through
the wreckage of Kobe Bryant's ill-fated helicopter that crashed in
California, killing the former NBA star, his daughter and seven
others on board, as they try to answer both the why and how of the
An 18-member National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team,
assisted by FBI forensic specialists, began mapping the wreckage
site Monday with drone aircraft and examining debris scattered
across the hillside where Bryant's chopper went down on Sunday.
Los Angeles County coroner's investigators, working alongside
aviation NTSB inspectors, said they had recovered the first three
bodies collected from the crash site and were searching for more
Officials said that they would be on the scene for about five days
collecting perishable evidence and would not draw any conclusions in
the near term, also noting that the craft was not equipped with a
flight data recorder called a "black box."
In a sign limited visibility was of particular interest to
investigators as reports indicated foggy conditions, NTSB board
member Jennifer Homendy appealed to the public to come forward with
any photographs that might help document local weather conditions at
the time of the crash.
But Homendy told reporters that weather was just one factor.
“We take a broad look at everything in an investigation - man,
machine and the environment. And weather is just a small portion of
that,” she said at a late-afternoon news conference in Calabasas,
California, about mile from the crash site, roughly 40 miles (65 km)
northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Bryant, who won five National Basketball Association championships
in his 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, was known since his
playing days to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid the Los
Angeles area's glacial traffic.
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Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) on the court against the
Boston Celtics at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler
II-USA TODAY Sports
In addition to the charismatic 41-year-old and his 13-year-old
daughter, Gianna, three other families linked to the Mamba Sports
Academy perished on their way to a girls' basketball tournament: a
husband and wife with their 13-year-old daughter; a mother and her
13-year-old daughter; and a basketball coach who was also a mother.
The ninth victim was the pilot, Ara Zobayan, an experienced former
flight instructor who was instrument-rated, or qualified to fly in
fog, according multiple media accounts.
The company that owns the chopper, Island Epress Helicopters, said
the pilot had more than 10 years experience and has logged more than
8,000 flight hours.
Witnesses recounted thick fog over the foothills where the
helicopter went down. The fog was so bad that both the Los Angeles
Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
grounded their helicopter fleets, the Los Angeles Times reported,
Air traffic controllers gave the pilot "Special Visual Flight
Rules," or clearance to fly in less than optimal weather around the
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official noted a pilot "does
not get a general, or blanket, clearance from the FAA to fly in
these conditions. A pilot is responsible for determining whether it
is safe to fly in current and expected conditions."
The NBA canceled a game scheduled for Staples Center on Tuesday
between the Lakers and their crosstown rivals, the Clippers, as fans
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Writing by Rich McKay in
Atlanta; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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