On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probable cause of the tragic helicopter crash that took the lives of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others was because of the pilot violating federal flight standards.
Pilot Ara Zobayan flew through thick fog and probably became disoriented which led to the fatal accident, Robert Sumwalt, the chairman of the NTSB, said during a hearing to determine the cause of the accident. He said the pilot was “flying under visual flight orders or VFR which legally prohibited him from penetrating the clouds” but he still flew through the clouds.
Investigators said that once Zobayan lost sight of the ground, he probably thought he was climbing when, in fact, the helicopter was plunging toward a hillside. They also concluded that Zobayan probably put pressure on himself to complete the flight because of Bryant’s celebrity and a friendship they had developed.
The Associated Press reported that the NTSB said there was no sign of mechanical failure and the crash appeared to be an accident.
Per the preliminary report by the safety board, Seconds before he crashed, Mr. Zobayan told a flight controller he was trying to climb to 4,000 feet in an attempt to get above the clouds, but the helicopter was actually falling. The helicopter crashed at 9:45 a.m., about 39 minutes after it had taken off from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.
Bryant regularly traveled by helicopter to avoid the city’s notorious traffic, and on the morning of January 26, 2020, he was taking his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and her friends and their family members from Orange County to Ventura County for a youth basketball tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy.