A pilot’s ‘poor decision making’ and flouting of flight rules probably caused the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant along with his daughter and seven others.
A damning report by the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] released on Tuesday said the pilot became disoriented and didn’t follow rules for flying in cloudy weather.
LA Lakers icon Kobe, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter tragically died when the helicopter they were in crashed near Calabasas, California in January last year.
The crash also killed the other seven people who were on board the aircraft including pilot Ara Zobayan.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office said that all nine victims of the crash lost their lives to “blunt trauma”, with the deaths certified as an “accident.”
On Tuesday a report into the crash noted Zobayan’s “poor decision to fly in excess of airspeed.”
It said the weather conditions were inconsistent with adverse weather training and resulted in the pilot’s “spatial disorientation and loss of control.”
The board also cited Zobayan’s “likely self-induced pressure” to complete the flight.
Zobayan told air traffic controllers that his helicopter was climbing out of heavy clouds when in fact it was descending, immediately before slamming into a hillside near the town of Calabasas in California, the report said.
The NTSB also cited the company operating the doomed helicopter, Island Express Helicopters, for ‘inadequate review and oversight of its safety management processes.’
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Zobayan should not have flown into the clouds.
He said: “Unfortunately, we continue to see these same issues influence poor decision making among otherwise experienced pilots in aviation crashes.
“Had this pilot not succumbed to the pressures he placed on himself to continue the flight into adverse weather, it is likely this accident would not have happened.”
The NTSB also urged the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] to require simulator training to address ‘procedures needed to recognise and respond to changing weather conditions’ and to convene a panel to address pilot disorientation.
It also called on the FAA to require flight data recorders in all charter helicopters.
The FAA said it ‘takes NTSB recommendations very seriously’ and said it was reviewing the feasibility of requiring all charter companies to install such recorders on their aircraft.
Zobayan was among those killed in the crash of the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter outside Los Angeles in hilly terrain.
Kobe, an 18-time National Basketball Association all-star with the Los Angeles Lakers, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also died in the crash.
Among the passengers who were killed in the tragic crash were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, 56, his wife Keri, their daughter Alyssa and Harbor Day School assistant coach Christina Mauser.
Another young player, Payton Chester, was also killed along with her mother Sarah Chester.