By now, most of you heard the shocking news of Kobe Bryant’s death. The Lakers great was killed Sunday morning when a helicopter heading to his daughter’s basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks crashed amid foggy conditions and burst into flames in Calabasas. At first, reports surfaced saying that five people were on board and all died on impact, but authorities later confirmed that nine (9) people were on that helicopter, which was being flown by pilot Ara Zobayan.
While details remain scarce on what actually happened, some reports surfaced late Sunday night suggesting that the helicopter most likely was flying too low in such foggy conditions. In fact, the fog was so severe that the Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division grounded their own helicopters and didn’t fly until later in the afternoon. “The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” department spokesman Josh Rubenstein said. The fog “was enough that we were not flying.”
According to reports, the air traffic controllers told the pilot (Ara Zobayan) of poor visibility around the Burbank and Van Nuys areas, but he reportedly responded to controllers normally before communication suddenly went dead near the crash site at Calabasas.
“You’re still too low level for flight following at this time,” the air traffic controller allegedly told the pilot. Then seconds later, the helicopter disappeared from the radar. It was traveling at speed – 153knots (176mph) – when it crashed into the hillside, according to tracking site Flightradar24.
Witnesses said they heard a roar before the chopper slammed into the hillside Sunday morning. One man said he was standing outside the Church in the Canyon drinking coffee when he heard a helicopter flying unusually low and seeming to struggle. “It wasn’t sounding right, and it was real low,” Kocharian said. “I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy.” The helicopter vanished into the sheet of fog, then there was a boom and “a big fireball,” he said. “No one could survive that.”
Bryant and the others in the chopper were understood to have been heading to a children’s basketball tournament which his daughter (Gianna) was playing in. There were no survivors sadly. Other victims included John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Peyton Chester, and Christina Mauser.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families grieving during this difficult time.