The National Transportation Safety Board has ruled that the pilot flying the helicopter in which NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed was likely disoriented by flying through clouds before the crash.
The federal safety officials came to the ruling Tuesday during a virtual meeting to determine the probably cause of the tragic crash.
Pilot Ara Zobayan, who often transported Bryant, was “flying under visual flight orders, or VFR, which legally prohibited him from penetrating the clouds,” but he continued to fly into the clouds, said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
In June, the NTSB said Zobayan told air traffic controllers that the helicopter was ascending out of heavy clouds, when the aircraft was actually descending and soon after crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, Calif. Zobayan may have “misperceived” the trajectory of the helicopter’s descent, according to documents from the NTSB.
“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. An accident is something unforeseen, unpredictable. Unfortunately this wasn’t,” said NSTB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg. “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 officials came to the ruling just over a year after the horrific crash on Jan. 26, 2020. In addition to Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in the crash, along with six others who were traveling to a basketball game in Thousand Oaks, Calif.