Kobe Bryant’s doomed chopper was flying through a thick cloud before ultimately crashing into a hillside on January 26, newly released 911 calls have confirmed.
According to calls released by the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the helicopter was flying in critically low visibility before crashing and bursting into flames, killing all nine passengers on board, stated a New York Post report.
“I just heard a helicopter go over me approximately from Lost Hills Road on a south to easterly sweep. It went over my head. It’s thick in clouds. And then I just, I heard a pop, and it immediately stopped,” one nearby witness told a 911 dispatcher.
“That part of the top of the mountain is obstructed in clouds,” he continued. “It came right over me,” he explained. “I was just thinking to myself if this guy doesn’t have night vision, I mean, he was completely, he’s completely IFR, instrument flight rules. He’s flying, and he’s got no visual.”
Another witness mistook the chopper for a small plane owing to the thick clouds. “I’m walking on the trail. I could hear the plane, I think it was, in the clouds. We couldn’t see it. And then we just heard a boom and a dead sound, and then I could see the flames,” he said.
Another man called 911 while standing outside an Erewhon grocery store. “A helicopter crashed into a mountain. We heard it. And now I’m looking at the flames,” he told the dispatcher. “We’re looking at the flames right now on the hill.”
The devastating crash is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is expected to release a preliminary report soon.
NTSB officials confirmed at a press briefing last week that the helicopter was not equipped with a terrain alarm system (TAWS) that could have helped pilot Ara Zobayan realize he was too close to impacting the Calabasas hillside.
And while the warning system is highly recommended by the NTSB, it is not mandated by the FAA. NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy previously noted how the pilot’s steep descent shortly before the crash was at a whopping rate of “over 2,000 feet per minute”.
“So we know this was a high-energy impact crash, and the helicopter was in a descending left bank,” Homendy said. “This is a pretty steep descent at high speed, so it wouldn’t be a normal landing speed,” she added.