More than 1,700 pages of documents from the federal probe of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others were released Wednesday, and while they don’t identify a cause of the crash, they lend credence to the theory the pilot may have become disoriented amid foggy conditions.
According to multiple documents, pilot Ara Zobayan’s last communication with air-traffic controllers before the Jan. 26 crash was an indication that he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above the cloud cover.
However, flight data indicates the helicopter was actually descending at the time while banking to the left, ultimately slamming into a Calabasas hillside, killing Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, the pilot and six other passengers.
According to one of the documents, just before the crash, flight data showed the helicopter had “reached its maximum altitude and began descending. During the final descent the pilot, responding to ATC (air traffic control), stated that they were `climbing to 4,000.”’
That was Zobayan’s final transmission. According to the NTSB documents, the helicopter was actually descending at a rate of about 4,000 feet per minute.
Bryant and the other passengers were being flown to the former Laker’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball game.
NTSB officials stressed that the “public docket” released Wednesday is not a final report, “nor does it contain analysis, findings, recommendations, or probable cause determinations.”
“As such, no conclusions about how or why the crash occurred should be drawn from the information within the docket,” according to the NTSB. “Analysis, findings, recommendations, and probable cause determinations related to the crash will be issued by the NTSB in a final report at a later date.”
The federal agency stated that the docket “includes more than 1,700 pages of factual reports on operations, survival factors, human performance, air traffic control, and aircraft performance. The docket also includes interview transcripts, photographs, and other investigative materials.”
The materials are available for public review at go.usa.gov/xwmT2.
Along with Bryant, 41, and his daughter, also killed in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash were:
— John Altobelli, 56, longtime coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team, along with his wife, Keri, 46, and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, who was a teammate of Gianna on Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy basketball team;
— Sarah Chester, 45, and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who also played with Gianna and Alyssa;
— Christina Mauser, 38, one of Bryant’s assistant coaches on the Mamba Academy team; and
— Zobayan, 50, the helicopter pilot.