(Reuters) – investigators from the U.S. Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Tuesday that the pilot of the helicopter that crashed last year and killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and 6 other people had lost direction after flying into the clouds.
The investigators based their preliminary conclusion on statements by Robert samwalt, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board responsible for determining the causes of the accident, made at a public meeting about what happened: “it is possible that the helicopter pilot suffered a loss of direction”.
Samwalt said that the veteran pilot, Ara zubayan, 50, reported in a radio voice message shortly before the helicopter crashed that it would rise to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in order to get out of the thick fog, but investigations indicated that the helicopter was then in a turn to the left and landing quickly.
“This manoeuvre is in line with the pilot’s exposure to spatial disorientation in limited visibility conditions,” he said, adding that he “mistakenly believed that the helicopter was going up while it was landing.”
Bryant, 41, died on January 26, 2020 after the helicopter carrying him, his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven other people crashed into Mount Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles.
During his 20 years on the court, the Los Angeles Lakers star won the American League title 5 times, and was named Best Player of the 2007-08 season, before announcing his retirement in 2016.
According to documents released Wednesday by US Federal Aviation Administration safety investigators, Bryant’s helicopter pilot, Ara zubayan, informed air traffic controllers that the helicopter was trying to climb up, while they had indications that it was descending, shortly before it crashed.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report said zubayan may have” misjudged or misunderstood ” the angles when the helicopter was flying down, causing it to hit a cliff.
“During the last landing the pilot said in response to air traffic controllers that he was flying at an altitude of 4,000 feet,” the report said, as quoted by Sky News.