A team from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to arrive in California Sunday evening to take the lead on the investigation into the cause of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Seven other people died in the crash.
At the same time, Lockheed Martin, the aerospace manufacturer that made the Sikorsky S-76 series helicopter in which Bryant was flying, will reportedly launch a probe of its own. “Safety is our top priority; if there are any actionable findings from the investigation, we will inform our S-76 customers,” the company tweeted.
Local law enforcement is already on the scene of the crash at a hillside in Calabasas, Calif. In a press conference on Sunday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva declined to identify the victims, saying their next of kin had not been notified.
“It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one has perished, and you learn about it from TMZ,” Villanueva said. “That is just wholly inappropriate so we’re not going to be going there.”
However, Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli, has also been identified as one of the victims. In a statement, OCC President Angelica Suarez said, “We have lost a member of our OCC family, and our hearts are broken. Coach Altobelli was a giant on our campus — a beloved teacher, coach, colleague and friend. This is a tremendous loss for our campus community.” It was later announced that his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were also among the fatalities, as well as basketball coach Christina Mauser.
Air traffic control audio, posted on LiveATC.net, revealed communications between the pilot and the tower as the helicopter navigated around the Van Nuys airport. The last communication that can be heard is the controller telling the pilot “You’re still too low.” Otherwise, the audio does not indicate anything amiss with the flight. Low clouds and fog were present in the area, according to the Weather Channel. It’s unclear if that impacted visibility and was a factor in the crash.
The crash was reported at 9:47 a.m., said L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. About 56 fire personnel were dispatched to the scene, near the intersection of Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street, just south of the 101 Ventura freeway. The crash sparked a brush fire that spread to about 1/4 acre before firefighters were able to put it out. The firefighters were able to determine that no one survived the crash. Villanueva said that a flight manifest listed eight passengers and one pilot.
Bryant’s death has led to an outpouring of condolences and expressions of sympathy from across the worlds of sports, politics, and entertainment. He was considered to be one of the greatest basketball players in a Hall of Fame career that included winning five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant was also an Oscar winner, picking up his statue for the short film, “Dear Basketball,” directed by Glen Keane, which was based on a letter that the basketball player wrote.