Kobe Bryant crash: Helicopter flew in conditions that grounded other aircraft

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

caption arrowCaption
Helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant reportedly took place in bad conditions

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The helicopter that crashed Sunday near Calabasas, California, killing NBA great Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, was flying in conditions so foggy that police agencies across Southern California had grounded their own helicopters.

The copter the group was flying in, a Sikorsky-76 built in 1991, took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m., according to data of the flight on FlightRadar24. According to air traffic controllers, visibility was poor around the area at the time.

As it left the area, it flew near Dodger Stadium and circled the city of Glendale near the Los Angeles Zoo. The aircraft was held up for a time for other aircraft in the area, then cleared to head north paralleling Interstate 5.

The copter then turned west, following Route 101, which is the Ventura Highway.

At 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned toward the southeast and climbed to more than 2,000 feet then descended and crashed into a steep hillside near Calabasas, about 30 miles from Los Angeles.

The helicopter was flying at 185 mph when it crashed, according to data from Flightradar24. It was descending at a rate of 4,000 feet a minute.

The helicopter, which Bryant had used for nearly five years, was once owned by the state of Illinois, WGN-TV reported. The Sikorsky-76 was purchased during an auction in 2015, according to Helis, an online aircraft database, and was owned by the state of Illinois from 2007 to 2015 when then-Gov. Bruce Rauner auctioned off the aircraft as a cost-cutting measure.

The helicopter was sold for $515,000, according to the website which includes photos of the interior and exterior at the time. The Island Express Holding Corporation of Van Nuys, California, was the company of record at the time of the crash.

The crash took the lives of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, John Altobelli, the baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife, Keri, their daughter Alyssa, who was a teammate of Gianna’s, Christina Mauser, basketball coach at the nearby Harbor Day School, the school Gianna attended, Payton Chester, a middle school student, Sarah Chester, Payton's mother and Ara Zobayan, the pilot.

The cause of the crash is not known.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

About the Author