Air crash investigators attend Kobe Bryant helicopter wreckage

Air crash investigators attend Kobe Bryant helicopter wreckage
Published: 27 January 2020 - 5 a.m.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating a helicopter crash which resulted in the death of basketball great Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others.

The Sikorsky S-76B came down over mountainous terrain in Los Angeles, US, on Sunday, but experts have said it is too early to draw conclusions on the cause of the crash.

The S-76B is widely used by VIPs and heads of state around the world and the twin-engine helicopter is known as a reliable workhorse with a strong safety record. Bryant frequently used helicopters to travel and during his career travelled in them to commute to games.

Owned by Island Express Holding Corp, the VIP helicopter appeared to descend rapidly – at a rate of 4,200 feet per minute – at about 40 minutes into its flight, according to data from Flightradar24.

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Flightradar24 data shows route of Kobe Bryant's helicopter prior to crash

A former air crash investigator with the NTSB and FAA told Forbes that the rate of descent suggests that the aircraft was either “out of control” or the pilot “is extremely eager to get it on the ground”.

But Alan Diehl told the media firm that it was too early to draw conclusions.

Other aviation experts have said that the wreckage pattern suggests that the aircraft endured an extremely hard impact and have speculated that the pilot may have been up against challenging conditions.

Weather reports suggest poor visibility in the area at the time of the crash, which can make mountain flying even more challenging that it already is.

Diehl said that the investigation may prove difficult because of the highly flammable nature of helicopters, which may have damaged or destroyed evidence. Eyewitnesses “may be critical” in the investigation, he said.

Island Express Holding Corp registered Bryant’s helicopter in 2015 after it was sold by the state of Illinois, according to helis.com. The helicopter was manufactured in 1991.

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