Additional details are beginning to spill out regarding Sunday’s tragedy in Calabasas.
Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were among the nine people killed in a helicopter crash just outside of Los Angeles. We’ve since learned the aircraft model historically has been conducive for safety, but now, we’re becoming aware of why the accident occurred.
According to ESPN’s Paula Lavigne, the helicopter was in a climb before the fatal crash.
The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight other passengers that crashed into a hillside in Southern California on Sunday was in a climbing left turn about 2,400 feet high before it dove to the ground, a person familiar with preliminary investigative information about the fatal crash told ESPN.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ESPN that the pilot had only moments before contacted air traffic controllers to say that he had begun a climb to “go above the layer” of clouds present.
Audio reviewed by ESPN indicates that a few minutes prior to the crash, an air traffic controller told the pilot that he was “still too low level for flight following,” meaning the aircraft was below the level at which it could be picked up by radar due to the area’s hilly terrain. That audio came from recordings posted on LiveATC.net, which has partial audio of the communication between the pilot and air traffic controllers.
Additional recordings between the pilot and air traffic controllers posted on the site indicate that the pilot was getting guidance from controllers as he navigated what was reported to be dense morning fog.
Air traffic controllers noted poor visibility around Burbank, just to the north, and Van Nuys, to the northwest. After holding up the helicopter for other aircraft, the controllers cleared the Sikorsky S-76 to proceed north along Interstate 5 through Burbank before turning west to follow U.S. Route 101, the Ventura Highway.
Shortly after 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned again, toward the southeast, and climbed to more than 2,000 feet above sea level. It then descended and crashed into a hillside at about 1,400 feet, according to data from Flightradar24.
When it struck the ground, the helicopter was flying at about 160 knots (184 mph) and descending at a rate of more than 4,000 feet per minute (45 mph), the Flightradar24 data showed.
Kobe Bryant was 41. Gianna Bryant was 13.
Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images