Federal investigators have shared crucial details regarding the helicopter crash that led to the deaths of Kobe Bryant and eight others. On January 26, 2020, Bryant was traveling with his daughter and seven others from Orange County to the Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County. En route to the academy, pilot Ara Zobayan and the passengers encountered thick fog that ultimately led to a fatal crash north of Los Angeles.
In the aftermath of the crash, Zobayan's brother, Berge Zobayan, claimed that Bryant knew the risks of flying before boarding the helicopter. In response, Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, accused Zobayan of being reckless and leading the helicopter to its demise. Thus far, safety investigators have found that Bryant and Zobayan had a long-term working relationship and that Bryant would trust Zobayan to fly his children around even when he was not present. On the day of the accident, investigators found no evidence that Bryant pressured Zobayan to fly through the fog.
"There was no evidence that Island Express, the air charter broker or the client [Kobe Bryant] placed pressure on the pilot to accept the charter flight request or complete the flight and adverse weather," the report states, according to TMZ.
Also, the National Transportation Safety Board has found no evidence of a mechanical failure and believes the crash was an accident. Further investigation found that the fog led to a condition known as "spatial disorientation." While experiencing spatial disorientation, it is likely that the pilot may have misperceived the angles he needed to take to ensure a safe flight. Ultimately, Zobayan's spatial disorientation coupled with the hilly terrain led to the crash.
“The pilot doesn’t know which way is up,” NTSB investigator Bill English said.
The fatal helicopter crash has generated dozens of lawsuits. Vanessa Bryant has sued Zobayan and the helicopter companies involved for negligence and wrongful death. The families of the seven other passengers have sued the companies involved, but not the pilot.
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