41 year old legendary basketball player, Kobe Bryant, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday Morning (local time) due to fog. The helicopter burst into flames as soon as it crashed in the hills of Calabasas, California.
Kobe Bryant who spent and made countless records with Lakers was accompanied by 8 others including her 13 year old daughter, Giana, on the helicopter.
Alex Villanueva, Los Angeles County Sheriff said that in total there were 9 people on board – 8 passenger, and 1 pilot – however, refrained to tell who were they until their family members were notified. As of now (Sunday Night), the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said, recovery efforts are underway and will take days owing to the condition of the crash.
Due to large number of fans of Bryant coming do the crash site, the officials were force to close the roads leading to the crash site.
The helicopter which was being flown was built in 1991 (Sikorsky S-76B) and lifted off from the Wayne Airport at 9:06 A.M. on the Sunday morning (local time) as per the records available to public.
Daryl Osby, Chief, L.A. Fire County said, before 10:00 A.M. the helicopter crashed around Willow Glen Street and Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas, California. He added that the authorities received a call around 9:45 A.M and the firefighters rushed to the crash site only to find that the crash has caused bush fires in 3/4 acre of the land.
In a news conference, Osby said “Our firefighters hiked into the accident site with their medical equipment and hose lines to extinguish the stubborn fire as it included the brush fire … and the helicopter”, adding the found it hard to control the fire as “The fire also included magnesium, which is very hard for firefighters to extinguish because magnesium reacts with oxygen and water”.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are now investigating the crash and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is also assisting in the investigations. According to the database of NTSB, the helicopter had no prior records of accidents or incidents. Sikorsky, the company who manufactured the helicopter issued a statement saying it will help in the investigations.
Los Angeles Police Department’s Air Support Division had grounded its own helicopters until the Sunday afternoon only because of the severity of fog on Sunday morning, according to Josh Rubenstein, Department’s spokesperson. He said “The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying”.
LAPD’s minimum requirements for a flight are 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) of visibility and 800 foot cloud ceiling.
Kurt Deetz, former pilot, Island Express Helicopters said that the weather condition in Van Nuys were “not good at all” on Sunday morning. Deetz used to fly Bryant in the chopper.
Adding, he said that it is more probable that the crash was caused by bad weather than mechanical or engine issue, “The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen”.
Assuming on the basis of the public record of the flight path and the sheer area the debris of the chopper has covered, the helicopter was travelling at a high speed, around 160 miles/hour (around 260 kilometres/hour). Adding, he said that after a 40 minutes of flight, the chopped would have close to 800 pounds (over 360 kilograms) of fuel which is “enough to start a pretty big fire”.
Though the Los Angeles County coroner’s office has not identified the victims yet, officially, but the Orange Coast College (OCC) has confirmed that John Altobelli, Basketball coach, was on-board and is amongst the one who were killed in the crash.
In a statement Angelica Suarez, President OCC said “Coach Altobelli was a giant on our campus — a beloved teacher, coach, colleague and friend. This is a tremendous loss for our campus community”.
According to the family, coach Altobelli’s wife, Keri Altobelli, and 13 year of daughter, Alyssa, who was a fellow player of Bryant’s daughter were amongst the victims.
Bryant was on his way to coach the Sunday game at his Mamba Sports Academy, Thousand Oaks, California, when the chopper crashed. The game was part of the Mamba Cup which was played by teams consisting of boys and girls studying from 4th to 8th standard. Bryant’s top assistant coach, Christina Mauser, was also on-board the chopper and his husband wrote on Facebook “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash”.
Jerry Kocharian, 62, was an eyewitness as he stood outside the church in the Canyon while having his coffee, he said he heard a helicopter and when he looked up saw the chopper was flying lower than usual and struggling.
Kocharian said “It sound right and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy”. The helicopter soon vanished into the thick fog only to be found later, crashed. He added “There was a big fireball,” claiming “No one could survive that”.
After the news surfaced, fans from all across the globe and the whole basketball world mourned the death of the legendary Basketball player.
Shaquille O’Neal said “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of losing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant .I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW”
There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
U.S.’s former President, Barack Obama, said “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day”.
Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 26, 2020
People are shook to the core as one Twitter user says “I still feel like it’s a nightmare…”: