'Just six metres from safety.' Everything we know so far about the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant.


Kobe Bryant, widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi), were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash over the weekend.

The NBA great and his daughter, who were on their way to basketball practice among a group of sports coaches, parents and teenagers, were killed when the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas, California.

At the time of the crash, the weather conditions were difficult due to low clouds and thick fog.

Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers talking about former opponent Kobe Bryant’s death. Post continues after video.

But although LA police had grounded their own helicopters due to the dangerous fog, the pilot of Bryant’s helicopter was given special clearance to fly in the thick fog.

Now, federal investigators are looking to identify the cause of the crash, as they look into the poor flying conditions, the possibility of human error or a technical malfunction.

Here’s everything we know about the crash so far.


The victims

On Tuesday, the nine victims of the Los Angeles helicopter crash were named.

Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gigi were on their way to basketball practice with the Mamba Academy team when the helicopter went down.

The 18-time NBA All-Star was married to his wife of 20 years, Vanessa. The couple have four daughters together: Natalia Diamante, 17, Gianna Maria-Onore, 13, Bianka Bella, three, and Capri Kobe, seven months.

READ: Daughters, parents and coaches: The 9 victims of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash.

John Atlobelli, his wife Keri, and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa were killed in the crash. Alyssa was a teammate and friend of Gigi.

Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who was also on the basketball team, were also travelling on the helicopter.

Christina Mauser, who was a basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach where Gigi went to school, was killed in the crash. The 38-year-old was a mother-of-three.

The pilot, 50-year-old Ara Zobayan, was Bryant’s regular pilot and a much loved figure in the aviation community.

The investigation

Although bad weather and fog has been cited as a potential cause of the crash, investigators will look into a number of potential factors.

On Sunday, National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy announced that a team of 18 people would investigate the crash.

As well as looking at the possibility of human error or a technical malfunction, the team will look at the helicopter’s maintenance records and the pilot’s history.


The investigation is expected to be ongoing with investigators searching the wreckage and the crash site, which is located among extremely steep terrain in Calabasas.

On Tuesday, it was announced the helicopter was missing a vital piece of warning software which alerts pilots when they’re too close to the ground.

As a result of not having the terrain awareness and warning system (TAWSE) on board, the helicopter cleared the mountain by just six to nine metres, said Jennifer Homendy from the National Transport Safety Board.

While it’s not mandatory, its use in this case would have perhaps helped to prevent the crash, said Ms Homendy.


The aircraft was flying at just 700 metres when it lost communication.

Investigations on the ground have now finished, with the helicopter’s wreckage being transported to a secure location for further testing.

The Transport Safety Board doesn’t expect to have a probable cause for at least a year.

The flight path

After taking off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9.06am, the helicopter headed north west over Los Angeles.

The helicopter then circled over Glendale for about 15 minutes after the pilot was instructed to remain in the area to allow a nearby plane to land.

After the plane passed, the helicopter moved in a northwesterly direction before turning south.

Not long after turning south, however, the aircraft crashed in the mountains near Calabasas.

Shortly before the helicopter lost radio contact with air traffic controllers, a controller tried to reach the pilot.

“You’re still too low level for flight following at this time,” they said.


The helicopter 

The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter that the group were flying in was built in 1991.

According to pilot Kurt Deetz, who flew Bryant between 2014 and 2016, Bryant favoured the helicopter, which has been described as being like “a limousine”.

Deetz, who logged more than 1,000 hours flying the Sikorsky S-76B, said the helicopter had a strong safety record, adding that it’s more likely the crash was caused by bad weather than technical or mechanical issues.


“The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft – it just doesn’t happen,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Bryant previously told Alex Rodriguez that he preferred to use helicopters for travel as a way to spend less time stuck in Los Angeles traffic.

“I was sitting in traffic and I wound up missing like a school play,” he said in 2018. “I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.”

“So that’s when I looked into helicopters, to be able to get down and back in 15 minutes and that’s when it started.”


Bryant shared that he would lift weights in the morning, take his children to school, fly to practice with the Los Angeles Lakers and fly back in time to pick his children up from school.

It’s also believed Bryant and his wife Vanessa made a point not to fly together.

“He and Vanessa had a deal that they would never fly on a helicopter together,” a source reportedly told PEOPLE.

The crash

Kobe Bryant’s helicopter took off from John Wayne airport at 9.06am at a time when conditions were reportedly not suitable for flying, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Bryant’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, requested to fly in the foggy conditions under special visual flight rules.

Under the clearance, Zobayan was relying on the ability to see the terrain below him in the difficult weather conditions.

After circling over Glendale before heading to Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, the aircraft descended and crashed into the mountains near Calabasas. The crash site was 27 kilometres away from the Mamba Sports Academy.

kobe bryant helicopter
Fans gather to remember Kobe Bryant. Image: Getty.

When the helicopter crashed, it was flying at 184 miles per hour and descending at a rate of more than 4,000 feet per minute.

The flight, which took 30 minutes the day before, lasted 41 minutes until the aircraft crashed.

The helicopter crash ignited a brush fire after the crashed helicopter burst into flames in the hills of Calabasas.

Feature Image: Getty.

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