Kobe Bryant dead: NBA legend killed in helicopter crash; dead, daughter, Gigi, pilot, radio call;witness accounts, video; updates
The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others made a steep climbing move to get above a thick layer of fog seconds before crashing into a hillside in Los Angeles, killing all on board.
According to ESPN, the pilot contacted air traffic controllers minutes earlier about the weather conditions only to be told they could not track the helicopter due to the region’s hilly terrain.
The pilot then told controllers he had begun to climb to get “ above the layer” of clouds and proceeded to 2400 feet before the helicopter went into a dive and crashed.
The weather conditions are set to become a key focus of the investigation after it was revealed other aircraft in the area were not allowed to fly due to the fog.
The LAPD today revealed they had grounded their Air Support Division in the morning (AEDT) due to the foggy condition and did not fly until the afternoon.
“The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” A spokesman said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did the same.
It comes as witnesses described hearing a spluttering sound moments before the fatal crash.
L.A. Times reporter Richard Winton was in the area when he heard the aircraft in trouble. He gave an account of what he saw, initially believing it be light plane.
“Small plane crash on Las Virgenes on the mountains, which are fogged in right now. I heard the plane splutter and then a boom,” he tweeted.
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Winton later wrote a column about his experience.
“Using binoculars, I was able to see the aircraft had been torn apart and was on fire,” he wrote.
“It turned out the aircraft was a helicopter, and it was scattered in many pieces on the hillside.
“In the ensuing minutes, a stream of firefighters arrived to tackle the fire. I was able to make it closer to the crash site, where I saw debris strewn across the hillside, still smouldering.”
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The Los Angeles Times also spoke to witnesses who saw the helicopter flying unusually low, then vanishing into a cloud of fog.
“It didn’t 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,” Jerry Kocharian told the paper.
After the helicopter disappeared into the fog, he heard a “boom”.
“There was a big fireball. No one could survive that,” he said.
“Because of its proximity to the ground, I knew something was wrong. It was hovering real low, like they were searching to land. It was making a slow left turn. It was about 9:44 a.m., and then the impact happened. I heard a crunch. I don’t think it pancaked. I think it hit rotors first,” another witness, Scott Daehlin, said
“I immediately called 911.”
According to data from flightradar24.com, a flight tracking site, the chopper took off from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana at 9:06 am.
It headed northwest, reportedly to Mamba Sports Academy, founded by Bryant, about 137 kilometres away — where his daughter Gianna was to have a basketball game
It then circled an area near L.A. Zoo six times at a low altitude for 10-15 minutes before continuing north west. It then turned south into a hilly region of LA, rising rapidly from 1250 feet to 2050 feet in the space of a minute before crashing at 1700 feet.
It was expected to land at San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter was latere seen flying through thick plumes of white smoke while video of the tragic crash’s aftermath shows authorities surveying the smouldering wreckage of the Sikorsky S-76 amid thick fog.
The aircraft went down around 10 a.m. local time, igniting a brush fire, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The blaze made it tough for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the chopper, a watch commander for the LA County Sheriff’s Department told the L.A. Times.
SHAQ’S SON REVEALS FINAL KOBE TEXT
Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA legend and Kobe Bryant’s longtime teammate Shaquille O’Neal, revealed on Twitter the final text he received from Bryant.
Bryant reached out to him just an hour and 40 minutes before his helicopter crashed at around 10am local time.
You good fam?” Bryant asked Shareef.
“Yeah! Just been getting this work in trying to figure out my next move,” Shareef replied.
“How you been?”
Shareef never received a reply. Bryant’s helicopter would soon crash, killing all nine people on board.
LEBRON’S DEVASTRATED REACTION TO KOBE’S DEATH
Vision has emerged of LeBron James in tears shortly after learning of Bryant’s death.
James had hopped off team plane when he embraced somebody before appearing to wipe away tears from his eyes.
James and Bryant were friends who competed against each other for years. On Sunday (AEDT), James passed Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
NBA PLAYERS IN TEARS AS EMOTIONS SPILL ONTO COURT
On the bench in the Houston Rockets’ game against the Denver Nuggets, veteran centre and California-native Tyson Chandler was seen crying and shaking his head.
Before the game, Austin Rivers, also a Californian, covered his mouth in disbelief and can be seen tearing up to the news.
To start the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Toronto Raptors, each team allowed the 24-second shot clock to expire in honour of Bryant, who wore the number 24. During the tribute, the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were seen hunched over. Both are NBA veterans, and competed against Bryant for years.
HUNDREDS JOIN KOBE VIGIL
Lakers fans held a candlelight vigil late into Sunday night outside Staples Center, the home of Bryant’s LA Lakers.
Inside Staples Center the Grammy’s were being held, but outside the tributes to Kobe took in thousands of well-wishers.
Fans huddled together in yellow and purple jerseys, laying out bouquets of flowers, replica jerseys with Bryant’s two numbers — 24 and 8 — lighting candles, leaving pictures and messages and shedding plenty of tears.