LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Federal safety officials Thursday released the final report into the cause of the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others last year.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced the probable cause earlier this month, concluding that the pilot flew through clouds in an apparent violation of federal standards and became disoriented before the crash. NTSB published the final 86-page report detailing everything found in the year-long investigation Thursday evening.
You can read the full report below:
The report said the most significant reason for the crash was pilot Ara Zobayan’s decision to continue the flight under cloudy conditions resulting in his spatial disorientation and loss of control. The report also detailed other contributing factors to the accident and recommendations for future flights.
“Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s likely self-induced pressure and the pilot’s plan
continuation bias, which adversely affected his decision-making, and Island Express Helicopters
Inc.’s inadequate review and oversight of its safety management processes,” the safety board ruled.
“I am saddened by this crash. We use the term crash rather than accident but I think it is rather important to understand the distinction,” said NSTB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg earlier this month. “An accident is something unforeseen, unpredictable. Unfortunately, this wasn’t. We know what happened and we have a very good idea of why it happened and we absolutely know how to prevent these crashes.”
The NTSB has also released more than 1,600 pages of documents related to the crash investigation.
On Jan. 26, 2020, the group of nine was traveling to a youth basketball tournament when their helicopter plunged into a steep hillside in the dense morning fog just outside of Los Angeles, prompting an outpouring of shock and grief from around the world.
Aboard the plane was: Bryant, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna; John Altobelli, 56, his wife Keri Altobelli, 46, their daughter and teammate of Gianna’s Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Christina Mauser, 38; Sarah Chester, 45, her daughter and teammate of Gianna’s Payton Chester, 13; and pilot Zobayan, 50.
In the year since the crash, there’s been plenty of finger-pointing over the cause of the tragedy, spawning lawsuits and countersuits.
On the day a massive memorial service was held at the Staples Center, where Bryant played most of his career, Vanessa Bryant sued Zobayan and the companies that owned and operated the helicopter for negligence and the wrongful deaths of her husband and daughter. Families of other victims sued the helicopter companies but not the pilot.
Vanessa Bryant said Island Express Helicopters Inc., which operated the aircraft, and its owner, Island Express Holding Corp., did not properly train or supervise Zobayan. She said the pilot was careless and negligent to fly in fog and should have aborted the flight.
Zobayan’s brother said Kobe Bryant knew the risks of flying in a helicopter and his survivors aren’t entitled to damages from the pilot’s estate. Island Express Helicopters Inc. denied responsibility and said the crash was “an act of God” it couldn’t control.
It also countersued two FAA air traffic controllers, saying the crash was caused by their “series of erroneous acts and/or omissions.”
The countersuit claims one controller improperly denied Zobayan’s request for “flight following,” or radar assistance as he proceeded in the fog. Officials have said the controller terminated service because radar couldn’t be maintained at the altitude the aircraft was flying.
According to the lawsuit, the controller said he was going to lose radar and communications shortly, but radar contact was not lost. When a second controller took over, the lawsuit said the first controller failed to brief him about the helicopter, and because the radar services were not terminated correctly, the pilot was under the belief he was being tracked.
Vanessa Bryant also sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, accusing deputies of sharing unauthorized photos of the crash site. California now has a state law prohibiting such conduct.