The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) met on Tuesday to present its findings on what caused the helicopter crash that killed NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others.
The NTSB concluded that pilot Ara Zobayan’s poor decision making is likely to be the major cause of the horrific crash.
The board found that the pilot was flying under visual flight rules, which means he had to be able to see where he was going, instead of adhering to flight rules, he decided to fly through the thick clouds.
It was also revealed that Zobayan had not received clearance to fly on that particular day.
The board concluded that the pilot went against his training by becoming spatially disoriented in thick clouds. Moments before the crash, Zobayan communicated with some flight controllers telling them that he had nearly broken through the clouds.
The NTSB found contradicting information from what the pilot had told flight controllers. They said that the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter was in fact banking and beginning to descend at increasing magnitude.
The report also says that the pilot did not file up for a backup plan and when the weather was getting worse and chose not to land at a nearby airport to wait for the bad weather to calm down.
On the day of the crash, Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna together with six other passengers were flying from Orange Country to a youth basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura Country.
The helicopter plunged into hills below, killing all nine people on board before blowing up in flames.
The NTSB concluded that there were no signs of mechanical failure and the crash was believed to be an accident. The helicopter also did not have the mandatory system recommended by the NTSB.
Investigator in charge Bill English said that the system is known as TAWS. However, English says the system would have not been helpful in Bryant’s crash.
“The hilly terrain, combined with the pilot’s spatial disorientation in the clouds, would have been ‘a confusing factor’” English said. “The pilot doesn’t know which way is up.”
Zobayan was an experienced pilot who often flew Bryant. The investigators say he may have had, “misperceived” the angles at which he was descending and banking, which can occur when pilots become disoriented in low visibility.
Findings by the board puts all blame on Zobayan for banking to the left instead of ascending straight up while trying to climb out of the bad weather.
The crash happened on 26 January 2020 and claimed the lives of nine people on board.
Others who died in the crash were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton.