NBA

Investigators say no evidence of engine failure in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash

Wreckage from the helicopter that crashed last month and killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others did not show any outward evidence of engine failure, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday.

U.S. National Transportation Safety Board reveals detail of probe on Friday

The scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, in Calabasas, Calif., is seen in this file photo from Jan. 28. Wreckage from the helicopter did not show any outward evidence of engine failure, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Friday. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

Wreckage from the helicopter that crashed last month and killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others did not show any outward evidence of engine failure, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and the others died in the Jan. 26 crash in Calabasas, Calif. The group was flying to a girls basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy. Gianna's team was coached by Bryant and was playing in the tournament.

The NTSB is investigating the accident, including any role heavy fog played, and a final report isn't expected for at least a year.

A witness told the NTSB that the helicopter was flying forward and downward through the fog before it crashed right into the hillside. The witness said he saw the helicopter for 1 to 2 seconds before it hit the hill.

WATCH | Fans mourn death of Kobe Bryant:

As a memorial to Kobe Bryant grows outside L.A.’s Staples Center, investigators are trying to determine the cause of Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed the NBA legend, his daughter and seven others. 2:27

The helicopter's instrument panel was destroyed in the crash and most of the devices were displaced, according to the NTSB's investigative update. The flight controls were broken and suffered fire damage.

Investigators believe that since a tree branch at the crash site was cut, it appears the engines were working and rotors turning at the time of impact.

Friday's report was merely informational and did not offer any information about what caused the crash. The victims' deaths have been ruled an accident by blunt trauma, according to the Los Angeles County coroner.

Public memorial in L.A. on Feb. 24

The deaths shook Los Angeles and the sporting world, with memorials spanning the city and tributes at the Super Bowl and other games. A public memorial for Bryant and the other victims is scheduled for Feb. 24 at the Staples Center.

The arena is where Bryant starred for the Los Angeles Lakers for most of his two-decade and the date 2/24 corresponds with the No. 24 jersey he wore and the No. 2 worn by Gianna.

Ara Zobayan was the chief pilot for Island Express Helicopters and had more than 8,200 hours of flight time. He was additionally certified to fly solely using instruments — a more difficult rating to attain that allows pilots to fly at night and through clouds — and was a pilot to other celebrities including Kawhi Leonard and Kylie Jenner.

The aircraft did not have a device called the Terrain Awareness and Warning System that signals when an aircraft is in danger of hitting ground. The NTSB has recommended the system be mandatory for helicopters but the Federal Aviation Administration only requires it for air ambulances. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, both California Democrats, have called for the FAA to mandate the devices in the wake of the tragedy.

It's not clear if the warning system would have averted the crash. The helicopter was also not required to have a black box.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.