One year after the tragic crash which claimed the lives of NBA star Kobe Bryant, and seven other passengers including his daughter Gianna Bryant, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled pilot Ara Zobayan was in violation of federal rules and grew disoriented while flying in the fog, The New York Times reports.
On Jan. 26, 2020, Zobayan, Bryant, his daughter Gianna, two of her teammates, and several parents were en route to a youth basketball tournament.
Five NTSB board members held a Tuesday morning meeting where they probed investigators and interviewed other pilots employed by the same charter company as Zobayan, in an effort to find answers regarding what caused the fateful crash.
They concluded Zobayan suffered from disorientation as he attempted to fly over the fog. Instead of ascending, the helicopter to descended rapidly until it crashed into a Calabasas hillside. Directly after the crash, the N.T.S.B. found there was no signs of engine failure during the flight, adding to the disorientation argument.
The recent findings could help Bryant’s widow Vanessa Bryant, as she wages a legal battle after the tragic death of her family members. In September Bryant filed an amendment to a suit, naming OC Helicopters LLC, which reportedly provided the flight operations for the helicopter Zobayan flew on Jan. 26. The suit claims the company’s owner and founder “suggested the route for this subject fatal flight to Zobayan.”
In Feb. Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters, the company that operated the helicopter Zobayan flew. The suit accused Zobayan of being negligent and that he failed in his duty to put the safety of his passengers first.
Because of the close personal and working relationship with Bryant and Zobayan, investigators believe the pilot intended to complete the path of the flight, to make sure Bryant and the group arrived at their destination. The evening before the flight Zobayan texted that the conditions for the next day weren’t the best, but after waking up the next morning, texted that the weather was “looking okay.”
Zobayan was a respected pilot and prior to the flight requested permission to fly through low-visibility areas. However, the certification that the Federal Aviation Administration issued to the helicopter’s owners, Island Express Helicopters, allowed pilots to fly visually, requiring at least a half-mile of visibility and the ability to see the ground.
Thousands mourned and continue to mourn the loss of Bryant and the eight others who were killed during the crash.