The tragic helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13 year old daughter Gianna, and seven others on January 26th was not the result of an engine failure. This conclusion comes from a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Friday.
There was initial speculation after the accident that the helicopter’s rapid decent could’ve been the result of an engine failure. After climbing to try and get above the thick clouds and fog in the area, the helicopter descended dramatically and at a high rate of speed before crashing into a hillside.
The report detailed the extensive damage the impact did to the helicopter. The entire fuselage/cabin and both engines were subjected to a postcrash fire. The cockpit was highly fragmented. The instrument panel was destroyed and most instruments were displaced from their panel mounts. Flight controls were fragmented and fire damaged,” the report reads.
The report also includes an account of the crash from a eye witness who was hiking just about 50 feet from where the impact happened.
“He said he began to hear the sound of a helicopter, which he described as appropriate for a helicopter flying while in a powered condition. He perceived the sound getting louder and saw a blue and white helicopter emerge from the clouds,” the report said.
“He judged it to be moving fast, travelling on a forward and descending trajectory. It started to roll to the left such that he caught a glimpse of its belly. He observed it for seconds 1 to 2 seconds, before it impacted terrain about 50 feet below his position.”
USA Today has more details on the doomed flight:
The helicopter was being flown by sight, not instruments, following Southern California’s freeways as it worked its way northwest. But as it got closer to its destination, the helicopter ventured from the flatlands into more rugged terrain and encountered a thick layer of fog.
Though it was outfitted with many luxury appointments, the NTSB said it lacked the helicopter version of a terrain awareness and warning system, or TAWS, which tells pilots if they are headed toward a hill or mountain obscured by clouds. Though the NTSB has recommended TAWS be required equipment aboard large passenger-carrying elements, it is still considered optional.
The helicopter carrying the retired NBA superstar and his party was flown up a canyon in Calabasas. Zobayan radioed air traffic controllers, having already received permission to transit controlled airspace with less than normal visibility, saying he was going to try to rise above the clouds. Investigators said he climbed to 2,300 feet above sea level, made a left turn and then crashed at high speed into the mountainside at 1,085 feet. The craft hit with such force that debris was scattered over a 600-foot area.