Stunning drone video shows devastation from helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, 8 others

2020-01-29 13:26:55

Stunning new drone footage released by the National Transportation Safety Board shows a swath of devastation from the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight other people.

The sweeping video shows the smashed hull and a debris field stretching across 200 yards of parched Southern California hillside. The actual crash site appears to be on a narrow, dirt trail that loops through the rugged terrain.

The video shows investigators picking through the wreckage, examining even tiny pieces of the plane. The terrain is steep and forbidding, accessible only on foot, horseback and on ATVs.

“It was a pretty devastating accident scene,” NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said.

The helicopter missed avoiding the hill by less than 30 feet. Barricades were being used in some places, and police patrols on horseback were working to keep the public away. Breaching the perimeter is a misdemeanor offense.

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The NTSB is trying to determine what caused the chartered Sikorsky S-76B helicopter to crash in fog-shrouded conditions Sunday morning. The NTSB said the helicopter was not equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system, or TAWS, recommended for large passenger-carrying choppers since a crash in Texas 15 years ago. 

Bryant’s helicopter also lacked “black boxes,” required in airplanes, that record data and pilot audio. Investigators do have radar tracking and recordings of communications with air traffic controllers

Those sources reveal how pilot Ara Zobayan, 50, lifted off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County bound for Ventura County above Los Angeles. Bryant was going to coach his daughter, Gianna, 13, in a basketball game at his academy in Thousand Oaks.

Homendy said Zobayan at one point sought permission to fly under special visual flight rules, which he was licensed to do. He circled for about 12 minutes before gaining approval from air traffic control, then proceeded out at 1,400 feet.

Zobyan requested flight following – surveillance information assistance from air traffic control – but was informed the helicopter was flying too low. A few minutes later, Zobayan notified controllers he was climbing to avoid a layer of clouds. Radar data shows the helicopter rose to 2,300 feet.

“When (controllers) asked the pilot what he planned to do, there was no reply,” Homendy said. A short time later the first 911 call came in for a possible helicopter crash and brush fire.

She said the descent rate for the helicopter was more than 2,000 feet a minute. It appears the helicopter was in one piece until it hit the ground, she added.

“We know that this was a high-energy-impact crash,” she said. “This is a pretty steep descent at high speed. So it wouldn’t be a normal landing speed.”

Homendy said she expects investigators to wrap up the site investigation later this week. A preliminary report will be issued in about 10 days, but it won’t include a cause for the crash.

A final report will be issued in eight to 12 months, she said. That should include findings on the cause as well as recommendations to improve helicopter safety.

Authorities in Los Angeles County said the remains of the passengers and pilot have been recovered.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: NTSB video shows ravine, devastation

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