Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have determined that a helicopter pilot became disoriented while trying to climb above cloud cover before crashing into a hillside in Calabasas, killing Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, this determination was presented this week, more than a year after the fatal crash.
Details on How the Crash Happened
NTSB blamed the crash on the pilot, finding that he did not follow his training or come up with a backup plan to deal with inclement weather. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was also killed in the crash. NTSB investigators cited “spatial disorientation” as the cause, which means while Zobayan may have believed he was still climbing, the helicopter was actually descending. Flying with Bryant and his daughter that day were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser; and mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester.
The Sikorsky S-7B helicopter that was carrying them had taken off from John Wayne Airport. About 40 minutes later the chopper was heard cruising low over Calabasas before plunging down the side of a hill. NTSB documents show Zobayan’s flight path took him along several major highways on the way to Calabasas. He initially flew in a northwest direction above the 5 Freeway through Burbank and the San Fernando Valley before turning west along the 118 Freeway.
The trouble began when the pilot encountered dense clouds in the Malibu Canyon area. Officials say Zobayan made a sudden left turn deeper into the cloudy area and tried to ascend to 4,000 feet to come out on top of the clouds. But altitude data show that he was actually descending.
Lawsuits and Liability Issues
So far, several lawsuits have been filed in connection with this crash. Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, sued Island Express Helicopters. The company sued air traffic controllers who communicated with Zobayan at the time. And Vanessa Bryant has also filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after it was revealed that at least one deputy took photos of the victims’ bodies at the site of the crash and shared the images with people at a bar.
The day of this tragic helicopter crash was devastating for all those families that lost loved ones, for Lakers fans and lovers of the sport all over the world. We hope the families that lost loved ones in this crash are able to get justice for their irreparable losses.