There was no voice recorder in the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, killing the NBA 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 NTSB, said at a news conference 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, California.
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 NTSB 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.
The pilot was called experienced, meticulous
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.”
Movement is building to put Bryant in the league logo
More than 1.5 million people have signed a Change.org petition suggesting the NBA redesign its logo to honor Bryant.
The petition, started by a teenager, was the first this year to surpass 1 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.”