Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash: New Details Emerge

The basketball legend and his 13-year-old daughter died on Jan. 26.

Rest in peace, Kobe Bryant

The former Los Angeles Lakers star and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died on Sunday, Jan. 26 following a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. According to the LA County Sheriff's Office, there were nine people on the helicopter -- a pilot and eight passengers. There were no survivors. 

Bryant is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and their three other children -- Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.

An investigation is ongoing, the LA County Sheriff's Office said. From what caused the crash to who was on board, here's everything we know: 

Who Was on the Helicopter? 

Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, aka Gigi, have been identified as being on board the helicopter. They were on their way to the Mamba Academy near Thousand Oaks, California, for a basketball tournament when the crash occurred. John Altobelli, a baseball coach at Orange Coast College, was also on the helicopter. Altobelli's daughter, Alyssa, played basketball with Bryant's daughter, Gianna. Alyssa and her mom, Keri, also died in Sunday's helicopter crash. Also among the victims was Christina Mauser, an assistant coach at Harbor Day School in Corona Del Mar, California.

Also on the plane were mother and daughter, Sarah and Payton Chester. The pilot has been identified as Ara Zobayan. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner told ET that "the bodies of the nine people who died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas on Sunday have been recovered."

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, in a press release, the Medical Examiner started that "through the use of DNA and fingerprints, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner identified all nine of the victims who died."

"Furthermore, on Tuesday body examinations were performed on all nine decedents. Their causes of death were certified as blunt trauma. The manner of death was certified as accident," the press release states.

On Sunday, Feb. 2, ET confirmed that the Medical Examiner had released Bryant and Gianna's bodies to the funeral home or mortuary chosen by their family. 

Who Reported the Crash?

Several people called 911 to report the incident, and on Tuesday, Feb. 4, the Los Angeles County Fire Department released five of those calls. The audio clips shed light on just how poor the weather conditions were in the Calabasas, California, area at the time, with many callers saying that they couldn't see the crash but heard it.

"A helicopter crashed into a mountain. We heard it and now I'm looking at the flames," one caller said, with another saying, "I just heard a helicopter go over me ... it went over my head. It's thick in clouds, and then I just heard a pop and it immediately stopped."

"I would call FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and find out who is flying this area," the second caller continued. "I was just thinking to myself, 'If this guy doesn't have night vision,' I mean, he's completely IFR [Instrument Flight Rules] ... he's got no visual." Read more here.

What Happened? 

The official cause of the crash is under investigation.

On Feb. 7, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a new report of the incident, with Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt saying in a statement, "We are confident that we will be able to determine its cause as well as any factors that contributed to it so we can make safety recommendations to prevent accidents like this from occurring again."

Per the report, "Analysis of the accident facts, along with conclusions and a determination of probable cause, will come at a later date when the final report on the investigation is completed. As such, no conclusions about how the incident happened should be drawn from the information contained within the investigative update."

During the LA County Sheriff's Office press conference on Jan. 28, the NTSB revealed that they had completed its work at the crash site, having loaded the wreckage into large white tarp bags, which were moved to a secure location. Interviews with air traffic control and the operator started and would be conducted over the next few days. 

The NTSB stated that about an hour prior to the Jan. 28 press conference, they had conducted a family briefing conference call with the families of the victims to update them on the investigation. They did not discuss the call, but the Sheriff's Office did confirm four of the victims' identities, John Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Ara Zobayan and Kobe Bryant, which were confirmed through the use of fingerprints. The Coroner's Office was then working to identify the other five victims, while the Sheriff's Office worked to clean up the crash site within the next five to seven days. 

According to the NTSB, the Jan. 28 press conference was the last one they'd be conducting on the crash. In 10 days, they'd issue a preliminary report with factual information about the flight, however, the report would not include analysis or safety recommendations. In 12 to 18 months, the NTSB hopes to release a final report, which will include findings, recommendations and probable cause. 

The NTSB did recover an iPad and cell phone from the crash site. They estimate that the time between the helicopter's descent to impact was about one minute. 

During the LA County Sheriff's Office press conference on Jan. 27, the NTSB asked for the public to help by sending in any photos of the weather in the area around the time of the crash to witness@ntps.gov. The NTSB confirmed that the FBI was involved in the investigation, but confirmed that there was no criminal aspect to the investigation. They would be spending about five days collecting evidence, as debris spanned 500 to 600 feet. There was an impact area on one of the hills, a piece of the helicopter's tail was down the hill, the fuselage was on the other side of that hill, and the main rotor was 100 yards beyond that.

There was not a black box on the helicopter, but the NTSB said there wasn't a requirement to have one on the aircraft. There was an iPad onboard for the pilot to look at the flight plan, weather briefings and more. The NTSB will be looking at that iPad, as well as the wreckage, pilot records and more to determine the cause of the crash. 

The Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, confirmed that they had secured the crash site, and were monitoring the area 24/7 on horseback and with ATVs, as the area is not easily accessible by vehicle, noting that trespassers would be charged with a misdemeanor. The coroner started recovering bodies hours after the crash.

The NTSB also confirmed that the pilot, Zobayan, was an experienced commercial pilot and flight instructor, who had 8,200 hours of flight time as of July 2019. 

During the LA County Sheriff's Office press conference on Jan. 26, the day of the crash, it was revealed that a 911 call was placed reporting a helicopter crash and brushfire at 9:47 a.m. It took emergency responders approximately eight minutes to arrive on the scene, and about another hour to extinguish the fire at the crash site.

The weather conditions were apparently pretty bad. A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department told ET that the department grounded all of their helicopters on Sunday morning because the foggy weather conditions did not meet the LAPD’s minimum standards for flying.

Bryant's helicopter appeared to encounter weather issues around the Los Angeles Zoo, circling the area at least six times at a low altitude, perhaps waiting for the fog to clear. The pilot contacted the control tower at Burbank airport at around 9:30 a.m., and roughly 10 minutes later, they encountered heavy fog as they traveled north. The helicopter flew into a mountain in Calabasas at around 9:45 a.m. 

Traveling by helicopter was not unusual for Bryant, who frequently traveled that way during his time playing for the Lakers. He was known to commute from Newport Beach, California, to Downtown LA's Staples Center in his Sikorsky S-76 chopper.

On May 15, the autopsy reports for all nine victims of the crash were released, confirming their cause of death as blunt trauma, and the manner of death as an accident. It was also confirmed that Ara Zobayan, the pilot, did not have drugs in his system at the time of the crash.

Celebs Who Have Spoken Out:

Tributes have flooded in for Bryant and his daughter on social media. In a statement posted on Twitter on Sunday, the National Basketball Players Association said, "We are stunned and devastated by the news of the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant. Words cannot express his impact on our Players, the NBA and the game of basketball. This is a monumental loss for the entire basketball community and our hearts and quite simply broken. We send love and prayers out to his wife Vanessa and the entire family."


"Nooooooooooo God please No!" Dwyane Wade wrote on Twitter. 

Tristan Thompson tweeted, "I hope this isn’t true man!!! Not Kobe." 


Chrissy Teigen tweeted, "I cannot believe this is real. My god. Oh my god."

"Downtown right now and nothing feels more unimportant than what we are doing today," she added of the GRAMMY Awards in a second tweet. "This is absolutely terrible. Everyone is numb."