People are still trying to process the news about the horrific helicopter crash on Jan. 26 that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in Calabasas, California.
But we are learning more about Island Express Helicopters, the company which owned the Sikorsky S76 helicopter they were riding in, and which was piloted by Ara Zobayan.
For example, the company has logged other crashes in which people have been injured or killed.
At her request, Vanessa Bryant will be given some items left by the thousands of fans that came to honor Kobe, Gianna and seven others who died in the helicopter crash https://t.co/HQ90fjOtlP pic.twitter.com/TpneeR4Yl7
— L.A. Times Sports (@latimessports) February 3, 2020
In 1985, an Island Express helicopter and a Helitrans helicopter collided over ocean waters. The passengers on the Island Express helicopter survived, but had serious injuries, while one person on the Helitrans helicopter was killed. Both Helitrans and Island Express were cited for safety violations.
In December, 1999, an Island Express helicopter crash-landed while it was on a sightseeing tour; thankfully, no one was killed.
And in 2008, a helicopter from the company crashed in Catalina, California, due to loss of engine power. It was only between 200 feet and 400 feet in the air when it crashed.
Three people were killed and three were seriously injured in that crash. The helicopter was an Aerospatiale AS-350D.
Breaking: No signs of engine failure are found in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others, the National Transportation Safety Board says https://t.co/T04C5uxh0m
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) February 7, 2020
According to the “Los Angeles Daily News”: “Witnesses reported hearing a loud pop, followed by flames coming from the back of the engine before the helicopter hit the ground.”
The story goes on to say that the cause in the 2008 crash was a “fatigue fracture”:
“The NTSB found that the probable cause for the accident was that a fatigue fracture of a power turbine blade caused the engine to lose power when it approached landing, according to the agency’s accident report.”
Island Express Helicopters, the company that owns the helicopter that crashed Sunday, killing NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight others, is "suspending all flight service for operational reasons," two company representatives told CNN https://t.co/29TqVJUhya
— CNN (@CNN) January 30, 2020
“The New York Times” is reporting that Island Express Helicopters also conflicted with safety inspectors at the Federal Aviation Administration on multiple occasions.
The paper states that Island Express didn’t have the correct certification to fly in the bad weather the Sikorsky S76 helicopter was flying in on Jan. 26.
Instead, the company had an FAA operating certification that limited pilots to fly under Visual Flight Rules, or VFR. VFR in this case means that: “helicopters operating at low altitude (would) require at least a half-mile of daytime visibility and visual reference to the ground,” according to “The Times.” But apparently, those limitations are not that unusual.
Wreckage from the helicopter that crashed last month and killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others did not show any evidence of engine failure, investigators said Friday. https://t.co/tk2BiDNW6l
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 7, 2020
“The Times” adds that the last message from Zobayan, the pilot in the Jan. 26 crash, was to air traffic control, when he told them he was climbing above a layer of clouds.
The paper says that witnesses saw the helicopter go through some clouds and fog before it crashed in Calabasas.