On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to announce the probable cause of the tragic helicopter crash that took the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others on January 26, 2020.
There has been plenty of finger-pointing over the cause of the tragedy. Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, blamed the pilot. She and the families of other victims also faulted the companies that owned and operated the helicopter. The brother of the pilot did not blame Bryant but said he knew the risks of flying. The helicopter companies said that the weather was an act of God and blamed air traffic controllers.
Kobe, Gianna and the other passengers were travelling from Orange County to Ventura County for a youth basketball tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy when the helicopter encountered thick fog making vision difficult. The pilot tried to fly above the fog and layer of clouds, and as he almost broke through, the aircraft suddenly plunged downward into the Calabasas hills, killing everyone aboard instantly.
The others killed in the crash were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. Alyssa and Payton were Gianna’s teammates.
On the day a massive memorial service was held at the Staples Center, Bryant’s Lakers home ground and where he played for most of his career, Vanessa Bryant sued pilot Ara Zobayan and the companies that owned and operated the helicopter for negligence and the wrongful deaths of her husband and daughter. Families of other victims sued the helicopter companies but not the pilot.
Along with announcing the cause of the crash, the board is also expected to make recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure crashes like this do not occur again. One of the recommendations is equipping helicopters with a warning system that will alert the pilot if the aircraft is in danger of crashing. The helicopter Bryant flew in was not equipped with such a system, as it is only a requirement for air ambulances. Federal lawmakers have sponsored the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act to mandate the devices on all helicopters that are carrying six or more passengers.