This timeline shows everything we know — and what we don't — about the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 8 other people

kobe bryant
Mourners look at an image of Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.Monica Almeida/Reuters
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  • Thursday marks the three-year anniversary of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant.

  • The eight others in the helicopter, including Bryant's daughter Gianna, also died in the crash.

  • In a 2021 report, the NTSB found that pilot error was the primary cause of the crash.

  • The NBA legend Kobe Bryant's helicopter crashed on Sunday morning, killing Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people on board.

  • The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.

  • Here's everything we know about the crash and the questions that remain.

The retired NBA star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on January 26, 2020.

His Sikorsky S-76 private helicopter, a model known for its safety record and VIP clients, crashed into a hillside after flying in heavy fog conditions about 9:45 a.m. local time.

All nine people on board — including Bryant's daughter Gianna (known as Gigi), members of her basketball team, and John Altobelli, a baseball coach — died in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration investigated the crash.

An NTSB member, Jennifer Homendy, said the helicopter missed clearing a hill by 20 to 30 feet and that it did not have a terrain warning system that could have alerted the pilot to the hills below him.

Investigators recovered the remains of all nine victims.

Here's everything we know — and still don't know — about the crash.

Bryant; his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; members of her basketball team; and their families boarded Bryant's private helicopter at Orange County's John Wayne Airport.

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John Wayne Airport, where Bryant's helicopter took off before its final flight.Google Maps/Business Insider

The Bryants were likely coming from their home in Newport Beach. Gianna went to the private Harbor Day School in the region.

kobe bryant house exterior
Courtesy of ReMax

Christina Mauser, the school's girls basketball coach, was also on the helicopter.

All nine people on the flight were headed toward the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks to attend his daughter's basketball game.

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A promotional video for Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy.Mamba Sports Academy/YouTube

The plan was to land at Camarillo Airport, about a 20-minute drive from the sports academy. The helicopter had made almost exactly the same trip the day before, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76, which Bryant used to avoid traffic between his house and Los Angeles, as well as to help teammates get to doctor appointments.

Kobe Bryant
Getty/Kevork Djansezian

Source: Business Insider

The aircraft took off at 9:06 a.m. local time. The pilot was Ara Zobayan, the same pilot who flew Bryant to his final Lakers game in 2016.

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Gigi and Kobe Bryant at the WNBA All-Star Game in July.Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY via Reuters

Kurt Deetz, another pilot who often flew Bryant to LA for games and practice, told The Journal that Zobayan was "an experienced pilot deeply familiar with the Los Angeles area."

Deetz added that only experienced pilots like Zobayan, an instrument-rated commercial pilot and flight instructor, would have been in the air in the conditions seen on the day of the crash.

The area had intense fog at the time — it was so bad that the Los Angeles Police Department grounded its helicopters that morning.

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Bryant taking a helicopter to his last game as a Laker in April 2016.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

According to The Journal, the National Weather Service's local office "warned of a deep marine layer, low clouds and dense fog" that morning.

The YouTuber Jeffree Star posted videos of dense fog around his nearby mansion shortly before the crash.

But Bryant's helicopter was given special permission to fly in the foggy weather.

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Gigi and Kobe Bryant.AP Photo/Chris Carlson

Source: Business Insider

About 10 minutes into the flight, Burbank air-traffic control ordered the helicopter to hold because another helicopter was landing nearby. The pilot said he would circle over Glendale and await instruction.

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Bryant's helicopter circled multiple times over Glendale before it crashed on Sunday.FlightRadar24

Glendale is about 45 miles from John Wayne Airport and some 40 miles from Thousand Oaks.

According to The Journal, this was unusual because the helicopter typically hadn't ventured as far north as Glendale on previous flights between Orange County and Thousand Oaks.

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The conversation between air-traffic control and Bryant's helicopter pilot on Sunday.VASAviation/YouTube

Source: The Journal

The helicopter circled for 12 minutes while awaiting "special visual flight rules" clearance to continue on in the foggy conditions.

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A Sikorsky S-76. Not the one Bryant flew in.Business Wire via Getty Images

SVFR means a pilot can fly without relying solely on instrument-based navigation, according to CNN.

Under normal visual flight rules, or VFR, visibility is adequate for a pilot to stay oriented and navigate by visual cues, often used in conjunction with instruments. SVFR clearance can be requested when conditions deteriorate during a flight that was previously under VFR.

Under SVFR, a pilot typically remains in close contact with air-traffic controllers.

A little later in the flight, the pilot asked for "flight following," in which controllers would track the flight and be in regular contact. However, the pilot was told he was flying too low for radar coverage at one point, the NTSB said.

Jennifer Homendy, an NTSB member, told reporters that the pilot, Zobayan, was "experienced" and had 8,200 hours of flight time.

Read more about VFR, SVFR, and another type of flight rules, instrument flight rules »

At 9:40 a.m., somewhere over the Granada Hills neighborhood, the helicopter changed its path and turned toward the mountainous Thousand Oaks.

kobe bryant helicopter flight
Google Maps/Business Insider

According to the NTSB, the helicopter climbed to about 2,300 feet to avoid a cloud layer shortly before starting a descending left turn.

Source: FlightRadar24

At 9:44 a.m., the helicopter was traveling above Highway 101 by Calabasas at 160 mph, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Highway 101 and the Calabasas neighborhood in California, where Bryant's helicopter flew over in its last minutes.Google Maps

Source: LA Times

The pilot then climbed about 875 feet in less than one minute — slowing the helicopter's speed to 125 mph — then made a sharp left turn, the Times said. He appeared to have lost contact with air-traffic control.

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A Sikorsky S-76 owned by Germany's Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, unrelated to the crash.Holger Hollemann/picture alliance/Getty Images

The pilot had been ascending to avoid a cloud layer just before the helicopter crashed, the NTSB said.

"Radar data indicates the helicopter climbed to 2,300 feet and then began a left descending turn," Homendy said.

Around 9:45 a.m., the helicopter crashed into a hilly area in Thousand Oaks at about 1,700 feet. It had been flying at about 153 knots, or 176 mph, according to FlightRadar24.

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Smoke rises from the scene of a helicopter crash that killed Bryant on Sunday.Ringo Chiu/Reuters

The last radar contact with the helicopter was around 9:45 a.m., consistent with the crash's location, according to the NTSB.

The helicopter was 11,000 pounds heavy, the Times said.

Source: FlightRadar24

This map shows the helicopter's flight path.

kobe bryant flight path map
Skye Gould/Business Insider

The NTSB said the helicopter's condition at the time of the crash was not yet clear. Pieces of the helicopter were scattered around the hillside, over about 500 to 600 feet, near the crash.

Source: Business Insider

It was a "high-energy impact crash," the NTSB said, adding that the helicopter missed clearing a hill by 20 to 30 feet.

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Officials at the helicopter crash site of NBA star Kobe Bryant in Calabasas, California, on January 27, 2020.Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Homendy said at a press briefing that the helicopter descended at 2,000 feet per minute.

Responders were called to the site at 9:47 a.m. The crash had ignited a brush fire over about a quarter-acre, the Times reported.

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California officials at the hillside where Bryant's helicopter crashed.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

The helicopter would have had about 800 pounds of fuel on board at that time, Deetz, the pilot who had flown Bryant before, told the Times.

"That's enough to start a pretty big fire," Deetz told the newspaper.

Officials also shut down roads leading to the crash site because so many people were trying to approach it.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that the department was protecting the area around the crash site to prevent trespassing.

There was no black box aboard the helicopter. The device, which records flight data and cockpit audio, was not required for the aircraft, the NTSB said.

Kobe Bryant Memorial
Cheri Carlson/Ventura County Star/Reuters

However, the pilot did use an iPad, which the NTSB recovered.

Investigators are also looking for other electronics that were on board, Homendy said.

Source: Business Insider

The aircraft was also missing a warning system that could have alerted the pilot to the hills below.

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Homendy speaks about the crash on Monday.Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Homendy said that the helicopter didn't have a terrain awareness and warning system, designed to provide terrain information to the pilot and prevent crashes.

The NTSB in 2006 called on the FAA to require all US-registered helicopters that carry at least six people to be equipped with the system, but Homendy said the FAA "failed to act."

The Journal reported that the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter was rolled out before the agency required the system on new aircraft.

Los Angeles authorities sealed off the surrounding roads after the crash but said that mourners, paparazzi, and "looky-loos" kept coming. The sheriff dispatched officers to patrol on horseback and quad bikes.

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Sheriff's deputies on horseback leave the crash site on Monday.Mark J. Terrill/AP

The sheriff also made it a misdemeanor to access the crash site without permission.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office said that all nine bodies had been recovered from the crash site.

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A mourner wearing a Lakers shirt and holding a Bryant book.REUTERS/Monica Almeida

The coroner said three of the bodies were recovered on the afternoon of the crash and the six others were removed the next day. All the bodies were taken to the department's forensic science center for identification.


But questions remain about the crash. Why did Bryant's party fly despite the poor weather conditions? Whose decision was it to take off?

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People looking at an image of Bryant.Monica Almeida/Reuters

It was likely extremely hard to fly at the time.

At 9:51 a.m., minutes after the crash, the nearby Van Nuys Airport reported visibility of 2.5 miles with 80% relative humidity and a ceiling of 1,300 feet, as well as haze, The Washington Post reported.

The Journal said that while it was too early for definitive answers about what went wrong, safety experts said the "crash highlights two of the biggest issue causes of chopper accidents: low-altitude operations and pilot disorientation about nearby structures or terrain in low visibility."

Why did the plane fly toward Thousand Oaks in its last minutes? Was it going too fast?

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A Sikorsky S-76 helicopter unrelated to Bryant's crash.Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Homendy told reporters that the speed of the aircraft is "still something we have to analyze as part of our investigation."

Was there anything wrong with the helicopter during the flight?

Kobe Bryant Memorial
A memorial for Bryant.Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Experts said the crash was more likely caused by the bad weather.

"The likelihood of a catastrophic twin-engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn't happen," Deetz told the Times.

A 2021 NTSB report assigned blame to the helicopter's pilot

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A mural for Kobe and Gigi Bryant.Getty/Apu Gomes

In February 2021, just over a year after the crash, the NTSB released the final conclusions of their investigation. The investigation confirmed that the crash happened due to the pilot and was also tied to weather conditions.

The pilot had lost contact with flight radars moments before the crash, per the report.

The report stated that when the pilot tried to fly from 1,500 feet to 4,000 feet to get above the cloud cover, he lost contact with radar services. A first controller told him he would no longer be able to assist if he did that and was cut off until a second controller was able to connect with the pilot around 2,300 feet up.

"The second controller was not aware of the aircraft, as services had previously been terminated, so asked the pilot to identify the flight," the report stated. "The controller then asked the pilot his intentions, to which he replied he was climbing to 4,000 feet. There were no further transmissions."

The helicopter crashed at 9:44 a.m. that day, plummeting from 2,300 feet into a rocky mountain face that was 1,500 feet above ground level.

During several lawsuits and a trial involving Vanessa Bryant, new details about the crash became public

Kobe and Gianna Bryant
A bronze sculpture honoring former Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and the names of those who died, is displayed at the site of a 2020 helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif, on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

In June 2021, Vanessa Bryant and the surviving family members of the victims of the crash settled a lawsuit against Island Helicopters in federal court, according to NBC.

A year later, Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter died in the crash, took Los Angeles County first responders to trial over illicit crash site photos that Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputies and County Fire officials took and circulated of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, and other victims moments after the crash.

Los Angeles County first responders testified about the grisly crash site, and several steps that were taken to identify the helicopter. Ultimately, jurors found that the first responders had improperly taken the crash site photos and Bryant's lawyers argued that only the NTSB and Coroner's office needed to take photos of the crash.

During the emotional trial, Bryant testified about the moment she received the call that the helicopter might have crashed after not hearing from Kobe for longer than usual, and traveling to the Las Virgenes water district to receive the news. She also spoke about the suicidal ideations she dealt with in the aftermath of the crash, compounded by learning about the photos first responders had taken.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, a close friend of the Bryant family, testified about returning to the crash site with Vanessa Bryant 6 months after it happened, to "touch the soil from where they went to heaven."




Read the original article on Business Insider