A helicopter crash in hilly Californian countryside has claimed the life of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight other people, including one of his daughters, Gianna.
- Bryant and his wife Vanessa had four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri
- US Federal Aviation Administration and National Transport Safety Bureau will investigate the crash that killed Bryant and one daughter, alongside seven others
- There were no survivors from the crash
The star’s private helicopter went down on a hillside in Calabasas, about 65 kilometres north-west of Los Angeles.
It wasn’t an unusual form of transport for the retired basketball legend, who often took helicopters to his games during his time as a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Here’s what we know about the crash so far.
The first reports came through 911 calls, saying there was a bushfire from a possible helicopter crash shortly before 10:00am (local time).
Firefighters who were first on the scene found a wide debris field across steep terrain, with a blaze the size of several tennis courts.
They had to hike into the site, taking both firefighting and medical equipment, fire chief Daryl Osby said.
“Debris from the helicopter and the fire also included magnesium, which is very hard for firefighters to extinguish because magnesium reacts with oxygen and water,” Mr Osby said.
Paramedics were also flown in and winched down to look for survivors.
But none were found.
An eyewitness to the crash, Jerry Kocharian, said he was drinking coffee in a nearby church parking lot when he heard some noise.
“It was very low flying. It was foggy day … the tail, was not really running right,” Mr Kocharian said.
“I heard some explosion … I see there’s some smoke coming up.”
Who was on board?
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna are known to be among those killed in the crash.
However, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said they were not officially confirming names until the coroner’s report was released.
“It is entirely inappropriate right now to identify anyone by name until the coroner has made the identification through their process and made notifications to the next of kin,” he said.
“It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one has perished and you learn about it from TMZ. That is just wholly inappropriate. So we’re not going to be going there.
“We’re assisting the families of those who believe they have been impacted and it’s a tough process.”
What was Bryant’s history with helicopters?
Bryant had a stellar career and was one of the highest paid NBA stars of all time. Sometimes he would commute to games by flying.
He told GQ magazine in 2010 that taking a helicopter was also a way to make sure his body was ready for a game, avoiding the two-hour trip by road.
He would fly from his home at the time in Orange County to the Lakers’ home stadium at the Staples Centre for every home game.
Tweet @kobebryant En route to staples #gameready #countonit
Bryant was known to use a Sikorsky S-76 chopper to his games, the celebrity news website TMZ said.
A Sikorsky 76B helicopter was involved in the crash.
Bryant and his wife Vanessa had four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June 2019.
In an insight into their life after Bryant’s retirement in 2016, his wife shared on Instagram that a forgotten Thanksgiving dish was picked up by Bryant and daughter Natalia using the helicopter.
Tweet @xKENNANx “…flew back home to get them. the Bryant family makes it sound like this is a normal thing loool #MambaChopper
Today, he was mourned by fans and celebrities alike.
What’s next in the investigation?
Federal investigators say they will focus on the operation and airworthiness of the helicopter involved in the crash.
A so-called ‘go team’ of 18 people from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is expected to travel to the crash site.
NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said the team would be looking at the history of the pilot and whatever crew was onboard.
“We’ll be looking at maintenance records of the helicopter. We will be looking at records of the owner and operator of the helicopter and a number of other things that we look at as part of the investigation,” she said.
Police have now handed over the site to two US investigatory bodies — the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the NTSB.