UPDATED: 9:35 a.m. ET, Jan. 27 —
All of the victims have been identified from the deadly helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter and seven other people, including the pilot. KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci tweeted that the pilot was Ara Zobayan.
Pascucci also tweeted that Zobayan “was instrument rated,” which “means he was rated to fly in fog/clouds.”
She added that Zobaytan “got permission to use special VFR flight rules to help him get around the fog.” However, Pascucci cautioned anyone jumping to immediate conclusions, saying that it was “too early to know if fog was the determining factor.”
Heavy fog was reported immediately prior to the crash.
The Armenian Report’s Facebook page identified Zobayan as being Armenian.
The other two victims identified after the others were named are mother and daughter Sarah Chester and Payton Chester. They were killed along with Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, who played on a basketball team with Bryant’s daughter, and their basketball coach Christina Mauser.
There were still so many questions surrounding the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, who was killed along with eight other people — including his teenage daughter — in a helicopter crash in southern California on Sunday. As fans, friends and former colleagues alike all expressed an outpouring of grief, people on social media were demanding to know more information about the crash that killed a legendary basketball player who touched so many lives on and off the court.
Some of those questions included: Who was the helicopter’s pilot and whether he or she was at fault in any way. While there were no immediate definite answers for those questions, there were, however, several reported factors in the crash that appeared to be relevant, like witnesses saying there was heavy fog in the air at the time of the crash. TMZ reported that the Los Angeles Police Department even grounded its fleet of helicopters because of it.
“Flight tracker data shows Kobe’s chopper appeared to first encounter weather issues as it was above the L.A. Zoo,” TMZ wrote. “It circled that area at least 6 times at a very low altitude — around 875 feet — perhaps waiting for the fog to clear.”
As of Sunday night, local officials had released the name of everyone on board except for the pilot and two others while federal officials investigate the crash, but frustration was building across social media as the demand grew for authorities to identify the pilot and his or her flying record.
One of Kobe’s former pilots told the L.A. Times that the helicopter the basketball legend died in was “fantastic” and like “a Cadillac, a limousine — it’s limo-esque.” The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter that crashed couldn’t have been felled by any inclement weather, though, Kurt Deetz, who was Bryant’s pilot from 2014 to 2016, said to the Times on Sunday. “The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen,” Deetz explained.
However, Justin Green, an aviation attorney who used to fly helicopters in the Marines told KTLA he suspected weather played a larger role than believed.
“Pilots can become disoriented in bad weather, losing track of which direction is up,” KTLA reported. “Green said a pilot flying an S-76 would be instrument-rated, meaning they could fly the helicopter without relying on visual cues from outside.”
A local resident told the Sentinel and Enterprise that he heard but couldn’t see the moments before the crash.
“Ït was very foggy so we couldn’t see anything,” said Colin Storm, who lives in Calabasas. “But then we heard some sputtering, and then a boom.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said it would investigate the pilot’s history, the maintenance records and information on the helicopter’s owner and operator as well as the helicopter’s occupancy limit.
According to TMZ, “the pilot contacted the control tower at Burbank Airport around 9:30 AM PT, and the tower was aware the pilot had been circling for about 15 minutes. The pilot eventually headed north along the 118 freeway before turning to the west, and started following above the 101 freeway around Woodland Hills, CA.
After encountering the fog, “they turned toward a mountainous area. The pilot suddenly and rapidly climbed from about 1200 feet up to 2000 feet” and flying more than 180 miles per hour.
The black box recording was posted on social media on Sunday night.
“A ruling on the cause can take a year or more,” KTLA wrote.
Kobe Bryant was 41 years old. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna also died in the crash along with baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, who played on a basketball team with Bryant’s daughter. Girls basketball coach Christina Mauser was also killed. The other two victims were not immediately identified.
Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa Laine Bryant, and their three other daughters: Natalia, 17; Bianka, 3; and Capri, 7 months.