NTSB: Kobe Bryant pilot possibly disoriented, thought he was climbing when helicopter crashed

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Documents show that the pilot expressed concerns about the weather prior to January's crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Documents show that the pilot expressed concerns about the weather prior to January's crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

An investigation into the crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others shows that the pilot may have been disoriented when the helicopter plummeted into a Southern California hillside.

The National Transportation Safety Board released details of the moments leading up to the crash on Wednesday, noting that pilot Ara Zobayan communicated to air traffic controllers that he was climbing to 4,000 feet when the helicopter was in fact descending toward the crash site.

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The report notes that Zobayan may have “misperceived” the pitch of the aircraft, according to documents shared with the Associated Press. The flight path also indicates that Zobayan was disoriented, according to the report.

Report: Pilot had concerns about the weather

The investigation revealed that Zobayan expressed concern about the weather the night before the crash.

“Just checked not the best day tomorrow but it is not as bad as today," Zobayan wrote in a group text, per the report.

Another person in the group text responded: “Advised weather could be an issue.”

On the morning of the Jan 26 crash, Zobayan wrote: “Morning Weather looking ok” in the text chain.

The crash occurred during a foggy day in the Los Angeles area.

A previous investigation report from the NTSB determined that engine failure did not occur during the crash.

When ground control realized something was wrong

Wednesday’s report also revealed the moments that employees working for the helicopter’s charter company Island Express Helicopter realized something was wrong.

From the report, per the Los Angeles Times’ Nathan Fenno:

9:55 a.m. “I kept refreshing the tracker and praying that it was just broken,” an employee wrote. “I called Angel again and asked him to call Camarillo Airport. He said he would call me back.

9:58 a.m. “Angel called me and said Camarillo Airport wasn’t answering. I told him to pull out the Emergency Response Manual now. We went down the list together on what it said to do. I told him to call Garret first so he hung up and called Garret again.”

10:02 a.m. “Rio OC Heli texted the group Ara you okay”

The investigation remains open and has not reached a final conclusion. Wednesday’s was the latest incremental release of findings by investigators. All nine on board the helicopter died, including Zobayan, Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant.

The helicopter was traveling to a youth basketball tournament featuring Gianna’s team at Bryant’s academy in Thousand Oaks.

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