The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office has released the cause of death of two of the victims involved in the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, and Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli both died of blunt trauma, this according to the medical examiner who released the horrific details on Wednesday. Ara Zobaya was 50 years old and an experienced pilot. John Altobelli was 56 and was on board the helicopter with his wife and young daughter when it went down on Sunday, January 26.
The coroner’s office has labeled the crash an accident and revealed their bodies are available to be released to next of kin. Investigators are still trying to piece together exactly what happened that foggy day. 9 people were on the helicopter — including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, aka GiGi when it crashed and burst into flames. There were no survivors. As The Blast reported, only three bodies were recovered that day. Rescuers combed through the wreckage the following day and recovered the remaining victims. As of Tuesday, only four of those victims [had been identified including the pilot, the baseball coach, Kobe Bryant, and Sarah Chester, a mom on the chopper with her daughter. GiGi was not among those identified.
Officials said they were able to utilize fingerprints to identify the 4 decedents. They later updated by stating, “Investigators are still working on identifying the five remaining decedents. The Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner will provide immediate updates on the names of the decedents as soon as they are officially verified and their next of kin have been notified.” As The Blast reported, Kobe Bryant’s helicopter was not equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) which would alert the pilot when an aircraft gets too close to terrain and could have possibly prevented that doomed flight.
TAWS are not mandatory on helicopters. The hazy fog on that fatal day most likely prevented the pilot from seeing the terrain ahead. During a press conference, investigators revealed the helicopter clipped a ridge only 20 – 30 feet from the top of a hillside. “The main impact was about 20 to 30 feet from that small hill, but there were other higher hills surrounding it…it’s in a canyon with small hills within it,” investigators stated on Tuesday.
Since Kobe Bryant’s passing, celebrities and his basketball brothers like LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Lamar Odom, have paid tribute to the Lakers legend. Many have included Vanessa Bryant and his girls in their prayers. According to PEOPLE, Vanessa “can hardly keep it together” but is remaining “strong” for their three other daughters. “She can’t finish a sentence without crying,” an insider told the outlet. Adding, “she is working very hard to pull it together for the other girls.” Kobe Bryant was only 41 years old.