Investigators have revealed the likely cause of the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend, Kobe Bryant along with his daughter, Gianna Bryant and six other passengers.
The National Transportation Safety Board, on Tuesday said the pilot of the chartered Island Express helicopter, Ara Zobayan, became disoriented in the cause of the flight and that caused him his life, the legend’s and other passengers in the helicopter.
NTSB stated that another possible cause of the crash is the pressure that the Zobayan placed himself on because he was piloting a flight conveying a celebrity.
The NTSB was unable to substantiate that the helicopter experienced any mechanical fault in the sky but queried Island Express over what it regarded as “inadequate review and oversight of safety management processes.”
Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six other passengers when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter slammed into a fog-shrouded hillside west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.
The NTSB said weather conditions were marginal on the morning of the flight but acceptable for flying under visual flight rules, where a pilot stays out of the clouds and maintains eye contact with the ground.
The NTSB also revealed that the pilot had announced he was climbing to 4,000 feet above the clouds while in the real sense, the helicopter was in a steep left turn and descending rapidly, shortly before the crash.
While the pilot perceived that the helicopter was climbing it was actually descending, they added.
NTSB Chairman, Robert Sumwalt said, “We are talking about spatial disorientation where literally the pilot may not know which way is up or down, whether he or she is leaning left or right.”
There were restrictions on Island Express flying passengers in instrument conditions and the pilot violated the rules by trying to fly through the clouds.
“He would have been illegal by going into the clouds.
“Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s likely self-induced pressure. Self-induced pressure is a real thing. Pilots are ‘can-do’ oriented. The pilot is paid to fly. He wants to get the job done,” Sumwalt stated.
In its findings, the NTSB said, “The probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s decision to continue the flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions which resulted in the pilot’s spatial disorientation and loss of control.”
Zobayan was ferrying Bryant that day from Orange County to Camarillo for a basketball game to be played by a team featuring the former NBA star’s daughter, a team he coached.
Two of Gianna Bryant’s 13-year-old teammates were among those who died in the crash along with an assistant coach on the Mamba Sports Academy team.
The NTSB chairman said the accident was avoidable.
“It could have been landed safely all the way up to the point where he went into the clouds,” Sumwalt said. “There were opportunities along the way to have reversed course and prevent this crash by simply landing.”
Reacting to the inadequate review and oversight of safety management processes by the company, Sumwalt said, “They had cancelled a number of flights due to weather and that’s what we want companies to do.
“It was an issue of judgement and decision-making that led to this tragic situation.”
Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.
He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, helping spark the US squad of NBA stars to titles in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London.