Federal investigators have released a preliminary report on the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
According to the report, pilot Ara Zobayan was just 100 feet, or 12 seconds, away from exiting heavy clouds when, instead of continuing to increase altitude, he made a left turn and crashed into the terrain at 180 mph.
“If you exit the bottom of the clouds at 4,000 feet per minute at that high speed, you’ve certainly lost control of the aircraft,” air safety consultant Kipp Lau of the National Transportation Safety Board said. “Once you break out of the clouds it’s clear. Everything lines up with the body.”
Another aviation expert claimed Zobayan was likely trying to maneuver quickly to clear clouds by moving the aircraft up and forward, but made a fatal error with a left turn.
“When he went into the clouds, he had a full on emergency,” pilot Mike Sagely said, adding that turning during a pop-up maneuver is “catastrophic . . . 80 to 90 percent of the time.”
The report also stated that it’s most likely that the helicopter crashed fully in-tact. “Examination of the main and tail rotor assemblies found damage consistent with powered rotation at the time of impact. The initial point of impact consisted of highly fragmented cabin and cockpit debris,” the report noted. Most of the wreckage was around 127 feet from the impact crater. “Viewable sections of the engines showed no evidence of an uncontained or catastrophic internal failure,” the report added.
Kobe, Gianna, along with seven other people, were killed on January 26 while taking a helicopter to the Mamba Academy for basketball practice in nearby Thousand Oaks.
Photo: TSM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images