The helicopter pilot who crashed on a hill amid the fog, killing Kobe Bryant and eight other passengers, was confused at the time of the accident, as he reported that he was ascending when he was actually descending.
06/18/2020 at 09:19
This information was released by federal investigators in documents published this Wednesday.
Pilot Ara Zobayan radioed air traffic controllers that he was climbing 4,000 feet to overcome the clouds, when in fact the helicopter was hurtling toward a hill where it crashed northwest of Los Angeles, killing all nine people aboard the ship.
The accident happened Sunday morning, January 26, when Bryant was taking his daughter Gianna to a basketball game.
The National Transportation Safety Board report said Zobayan may have « misperceived » the angles at which he was descending and tilting.
They said it is something that can happen when a pilot is disoriented and there is poor visibility.
« The apparent angles calculated at this time show that the pilot may have misperceived pitch and roll angles. »indicated a report.
The text adds that « during the final descent, the pilot, responding (to air traffic control), declared that they were climbing to four thousand. »
The 1,700 report pages do not provide a conclusion of the cause of the accident, but compile reports.
The end that establishes the causes of the accident will be announced when all the hypotheses have been studied and evaluated and the data in the hands of the federal investigators have been analyzed.
The NTSB said there were no signs of engine failure in the Sikorsky S-76 and that the rotor was spinning just before it hit the ground at about 184 miles per hour (296 kilometers per hour).
The impact caused a crater and scattered debris over an area the size of a soccer field in the Calabasas Hills (California).
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and six of his friends lost their lives, as did the pilot.
About 45 minutes before takeoff, Zobayan texted a group of people supervising the flight saying the weather was « fine ».
Richard Webb, owner of OC Helicopters, who booked the flight, agreed.
Zobayan took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m. with the eight passengers who had flown the day before to the same destination, where a women’s basketball tournament was held at the Bryant Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.
When the helicopter had not landed on a specific coordinate, an executive of the company that operated the ship began a search in the tracking software and sent another helicopter to search for it.
« However, the strange thing is that the tracker had stopped at 9:45 a.m., which is not normal and we were trying to communicate with Ara by radio« said Whitney Bagge, vice president of Island Express Helicopters.
« I kept updating the tracker, praying that everyone was fine, » he said.
NTSB investigators interviewed four current and one previous pilot for Island Express, and while some praised the company, others said the safety culture could have been better, according to reports.
A pilot said the company did not have an actual security management program.
However, the company said it had no problem canceling flights in bad weather. He cited six flights he canceled for Los Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, and one for celebrity Kylie Jenner, who would have used the same helicopter.
Island Express reported 150 flight cancellations due to weather last year.
There were 13 cancellations due to weather for 2020, all recorded in the two days leading up to Bryant’s fatal flight.
The afternoon before the flight, after returning to the Bryants and their guests to Orange County, Zobayan had texted him, saying he had just checked the weather for his next flight and that « it was not the best day, but it is not so bad like today « .
The Saturday morning flight departure was delayed 15 minutes due to weather, Brady said, adding that the original flight schedule for Sunday was 9:45 a.m., but Bryant rescheduled it for 9 a.m. Because she wanted to see another team play before her daughter’s game.
Bryant’s widow Vanessa sued the pilot, Island Express and the owner of the ship for negligence.
Zobayan’s brother replied in court that Bryant was aware of the risks of flying by helicopter and that his survivors are not entitled to damage to the pilot’s property.
Island Express Helicopters Inc. has denied liability, calling the accident « an act of God » beyond its control.