It is believed that Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter that crashed and killed Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and seven others, was likely disoriented due to the fog and clouds present at the time.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined Zobayan may have “misperceived both pitch and roll angles.” Zobayan radioed to air traffic control that he was “climbing to four thousand [feet]” when in fact the helicopter was descending toward a hillside where it would ultimately crash. The NTSB also said there was no signs of engine failure before the crash.
The more than 1,700 pages of reports do not give a final conclusion as to the cause of the crash, but rather compiled multiple factual reports. The report on the final cause will come at a later date.
The weather conditions are something that have been called into question since the tragic accident. Around 45 minutes before the takeoff, Zobayan texted the people overseeing the flight that the weather was looking “ok” which owner of OC Helicopters Richard Webb agreed with.
The day before the flight, Zobayan texted that he had looked up the weather for the following day and it was “not the best” but not as bad as the current day’s weather. Additionally, the flight itself had been delayed by 15 minutes that morning due to weather.
An executive of Island Express Helicopters says that when they hadn’t landed within an hour they began a frantic search on tracking software. However, the helicopter’s tracker had stopped working at around 9:45 am which the executive noted was “not normal.”
The overall safety culture of Island Express Helicopters has also been called into question. One pilot said that Zobayan never talked about safety policy or the minimum amount of visibility need to fly while another says the company didn’t have a real safety management program to speak of.
Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, has filed a lawsuit against Zobayan and Island Express for negligence, claiming that the pilot shouldn’t have flown in those weather conditions and should have aborted the flight.
Vanessa is also working to get Congress to pass the “Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act” that will require additional instruments be included and utilized, with the hope of preventing another tragedy.
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