Kobe Bryant's Helicopter Did Not Suffer Engine Failure Before Fatal Crash That Killed 9: NTSB

The NTSB released its first update about the crash that killed the NBA legend, his daughter, and seven others

The National Transportation Safety Board said it found no evidence that the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others experienced engine failure before it crashed on Jan. 26.

In an update published on Friday, the NTSB said damage to the aircraft and to the surrounding area indicated the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter did not undergo engine failure before it slammed into a hillside in Calabasas, California, killing Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, as well as seven other members of a close-knit community: John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser, and pilot Ara Zobayan.

Investigators retrieved “all significant components” of the helicopter within the wreckage area and an analysis of the aircraft’s main and tail rotor assemblies showed they were in “powered rotation” at the time of impact.

The NTSB also recovered a tree branch about 30 feet from the crash. It was cut cleanly in three locations, another sign that the rotors were revolving at full power, investigators said.

According to the inquiry, the crash caused a crater 24 feet by 15 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep. The helicopter’s instrument panel was destroyed in the impact, and its flight controls, fuselage and cabin were damaged in the subsequent fire.

Kobe Bryant Sikorsky Helicopter Crash
NTSB/Google Earth

The helicopter also did not have a flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder — features it was not required to have for operation. Investigators recovered a “number of personal electronic devices” from the wreckage and plan to examine them for any relevant data.

“Our investigators have already developed a substantial amount of evidence about the circumstances of this tragic crash,” NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in the update.

“And we are confident that we will be able to determine its cause as well as any factors that contributed to it so we can make safety recommendations to prevent accidents like this from occurring again,” he added.

Island Express Helicopters, the company that owned the helicopter, temporarily suspended its operations in the wake of the tragic incident. Zobayan had worked for the company for 10 years, the update stated.

Gianna Bryant, Kobe Bryant
Gianna Bryant, Kobe Bryant. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The NTSB said Zobayan had 8,200 hours of flight experience and logged about 1,250 hours in the S76 helicopter.

The update did not mention if heavy fog the morning of the crash played any part in the tragedy.

A full report into the crash isn’t expected for at least a year, the NTSB announced.

The helicopter was on its way to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks at the time of the crash.

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash
David McNew/Getty Images

The former NBA star previously shared he began using helicopters while he still played for the Los Angeles Lakers as a way to spend more time with his family.

“I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing like a school play,” he told Alex Rodriguez in a 2018 interview. “I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.”

“So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes and that’s when it started,” he added at the time.

Bryant, 41, is survived by wife, Vanessa Bryant, 37, and their daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, who was born in June 2019.

If you would like to help the families of the victims of the crash, consider donating to the Mamba on Three Fund. Contributions to the Mamba Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.

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