Helicopter in Kobe Bryant’s Death Didn’t Have ‘Black Box’: Live Updates

Helicopter in Kobe Bryant’s Death Didn’t Have ‘Black Box’: Live Updates


There was no voice recorder in the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday, killing the N.B.A. legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people who were on their way to a basketball tournament, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

“There wasn’t a black box, and there isn’t a requirement to have a black box” on this helicopter, Jennifer Homendy, a member of the N.T.S.B., said at a news conference on Monday.

But there was an iPad in the helicopter that included the ForeFlight application, which pilots use while in the air to review flight plans, monitor weather briefings and more, she said. Investigators would review the iPad and other evidence recovered from the crash site, which extended about 500 to 600 feet away from the center of the wreckage.

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

During the flight on Sunday morning, the fog was so thick that the pilot had to get special visual clearance from air traffic controllers before continuing on the route.

The Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters, but the pilot was licensed to fly in inclement weather and continued toward Bryant’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

The helicopter lost contact with controllers at 9:45 a.m., and two minutes later, witnesses called 911 and reported hearing the sound of whirring blades and a fire on the hillside. The aircraft had smashed into a hill at 1,085 feet.

The investigation, which the N.T.S.B. is leading, will include a review of weather conditions, but it will encompass much more, Homendy said.

“We look at man, machine and the environment, and weather is just a small portion of that,” she said, adding that investigators would review records and evidence tied to the pilot, his company, the helicopter and its instruments, and more.

On Monday night, LeBron James posted a tribute to Bryant and his daughter Gianna on Instagram, saying he was “heartbroken and devastated.” He referred to Bryant as his brother.

“Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!” James wrote. “I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have.” He added, “My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man!”

On Sunday, footage emerged of James and other Lakers teammates coming off the team plane and embracing one another. Bryant’s death came the day after James passed him on the N.B.A.’s all-time scoring list.

Separated in age by just six years, the men were friends and regarded as the heirs to Michael Jordan. Their ties had been nurtured over close to two decades, ever since the day in 2002 when Bryant and James met in Philadelphia. The next year, with the league more comfortable with the notion of signing a player straight out of high school thanks to Bryant’s success, James entered the draft.

They eventually played alongside each other in the Olympics and were fierce rivals when they played for opposing teams in the N.B.A. But especially once Bryant retired and James moved to Los Angeles, they were known to share hugs and jokes in public. Bryant’s last Twitter post before his death was a message congratulating James, who had just passed him on the N.B.A.’s career scoring list.

The pilot on board the helicopter, Ara Zobayan, learned to fly in 1998, after taking a sightseeing flight over the Grand Canyon. He was certified not only to fly under instrument conditions — navigating with the use of instruments — but also to teach other pilots seeking to obtain their own instrument ratings. And he had no accidents or enforcement actions on his record according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

So pilots who knew Zobayan were perplexed by the crash, describing him as an experienced and meticulous operator. He had flown Bryant many times before.

“Supercautious, supersmart,” an instructor said. “I can’t see him making this kind of mistake.”

More than 1.5 million people have signed a Change.org petition suggesting the N.B.A. redesign its logo to honor Bryant.

The petition, started by a teenager, was the first this year to surpass one million signatures, the website said. The idea was supported by some past and present players, including Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and Jamal Murray.

The red, white and blue logo was designed in 1969 and features the silhouette of Jerry West, the retired Hall of Fame player for the Lakers. In 2017, West said on ESPN that he was flattered but didn’t relish the attention it brought.

“If they would want to change it, I wish they would,” he said. “In many ways I wish they would.”

Bryant was among the most compelling figures in the N.B.A. for years, his rise to stardom, his legal trouble and his final seasons relentlessly chronicled and dissected by rivals, fans and journalists.

He was, the columnist Michael Powell writes, “a confounding and intriguing star, complicated and intelligent and self-aware and nasty, and accepting all of that in himself.”

Reporting was contributed by Dave Phillips, Tim Arango, Louis Keene and Scott Cacciola.



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