Kobe Bryant Crash Pilot May Have Been Disoriented, NTSB Documents Say

Kobe Bryant (Credit: Shutterstock)

The pilot of the helicopter that crashed in thick fog killing all nine people on board in January, including Kobe Bryant, reported the aircraft was climbing when it actually was descending, federal investigators said in more than 1,700 pages of documents released Wednesday.

While the documents don’t identify what caused the Sikorsky S-76 to crash into a hillside in Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26, they bolster the theory that the pilot may have become disoriented in foggy conditions.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the report by the National Transportation Safety Board said pilot Ara Zobayan may have “misperceived both pitch and roll angles” at which he was descending.

“When a pilot misperceives attitude and acceleration,” the report said, “it is known as the ‘somatogravic illusion’ and can cause spatial disorientation.”

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NTSB Kobe Bryant Crash Site (Credit: NTSB)
An NTSB investigator visits the site of the helicopter crash. (Credit: NTSB)

Federal investigators said there was no sign of engine failure. The rotor was still spinning just before the chopper hit the ground at about 184 mph.

Autopsy reports released on May 15, by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office showed Zobayan, 50, did not have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.

The report said everyone on board the helicopter died of blunt trauma. “The manner of death was certified as accident,” the report said.

Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the others to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. The other victims were identified as John Altobelli, 56; Sarah Chester, 45; Keri Altobelli, 46; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Payton Chester, 13; and Christina Mauser, 38.

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