Details of a helicopter crash that killed basketball superstar Kobe Bryant have emerged with one report saying the pilot was told by an air traffic controller that he was "too low" moments before the crash. The statement was not a warning of an upcoming threat, but that the helicopter couldn’t be tracked by radar, meaning Burbank Airport control tower couldn’t guide the pilot through the thick fog the helicopter was flying in.
Residents of Calabasas where the helicopter came down told the media they heard a helicopter that was flying too low. "I was sitting on my couch when I heard it go over our roof. I thought to myself, 'Wow they're flying really low today.' It must've been about 100 feet above our roof by the way the house was shaking. I couldn't imagine why a helicopter was flying so low", Matt Graham, a resident of Calabasas told People magazine.
The Los Angeles Police Department said all flights were grounded as the weather did not meet “their standard for flying” due to foggy conditions. Kurt Deetz, former pilot, who has flown Kobe Bryant in the same helicopter, said weather conditions are more likely to blame for the tragic incident than a mechanical failure. Deetz said the Sikorsky s-76B was in fantastic condition and was subject to "a very good maintenance programme". "The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft - it just doesn't happen”, he said.
Investigators said the helicopter has a black box, which will likely shed light on what happened Sunday morning. Flight data showed that the pilot apparently got in trouble when the aircraft was over the LA Zoo, where it circled for 15 minutes. The pilot contacted Burbank Airport when he turned to a mountainous area. Several minutes later the helicopter hit the hillside at 1,700 feet. All nine passengers, including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter Gianna died in the crash.
The basketball legend was said to be heading to the Mamba Sports Academy, which Bryant founded, for a tournament involving his daughter and her teammates.
Fans of Bryant shared a heartbreaking video showing the athlete coaching his daughter a day before the tragedy. Gianna, whom Kobe called Gianna Mambacita (little Mamba) a reference to his on-court nickname Black Mamba, wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a professional player.
In a 2018 interview with late night show host Jimmy Kimmel, Bryant revealed how fans approached him after games and encouraged him to have a son so that the basketball superstar would have someone to carry on the tradition. To that his daughter replied: “Oy, I got this”, Bryant said.
"Heroes come and go, but legends are forever" The legend died together with his daughter who dreams to be like him and play on the WNBA 😔 Rest in Peace KOBE and GIANNA/GIGI.— Rahian (@Rahian62969727) January 26, 2020
GONE TOO SOON. #BlackMamba 🖤 pic.twitter.com/FeMQ51EmaJ
Kobe Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa and his three other children Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born last summer.