The remarks were made at a meeting of the National Road Safety Board to address the official cause of the January 26, 2020 accident, in which Bryant, his daughter, the pilot and six other people died.
The meeting, which is still ongoing on Tuesday morning, will make possible long-term safety recommendations in the wake of the accident, including stronger calls for increased safety training for helicopter pilots on how to avoid accidental flight into the clouds.
“We’re using an accident instead of an accident,” said Bruce Landsberg, vice president of the NTSB. “Accident (van) just something unpredictable, unpredictable if you will. Unfortunately, that was not the case. “
During the meeting, investigators said Ara Zobayan, a pilot of Island Express, could feel pressure on a key customer and continued deteriorating weather conditions.
He was said to have climbed into a “cloud wall” according to witnesses, possibly disoriented, and unconsciously turned into a cloud-covered hillside that he knew was there.
“It’s not that … the pilot flew all the way, he didn’t know where the hills were, and he crashed into the side of a hill,” said Robert Sumwalt, president of the NTSB.
Investigators said the helicopter could fly to the clouds and the pilot operated solely by reference to the instruments – the so-called instrument flight rules or IFR – but the Island Express charter company’s agreement with the FAA only allowed flights where the pilot was able to to maintain contact with the ground, known as Visual Flight Rules or VFR.
“It appears that these flights should have been operated under IFR,” Sumwalt said.
All 9 people on board were killed
The accident, along with 41-year-old Bryant and 13-year-old Gianna, claimed the lives of his teammates, 13-year-old Payton Chester and 14-year-old Alyssa Altobelli; Payton’s mother, Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa’s parents are Keri Altobelli (46) and John Altobelli (56); assistant coach Christina Mauser (38); and the 50-year-old Zobayan pilot.
Bryant, a 41-year-old, 18-time All Star who has won five NBA tournaments with the Los Angeles Lakers, has toured Thousand Oaks several times as the academy’s coach.
The pilot seemed to be disoriented in the fog, earlier documents show
The flight’s first 911 call arrived at 9:47 a.m., said Alex Villanueva, Los Angeles County Sheriff.
The helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas and found parts scattered over an area of up to 600 meters, the NTSB said days after the incident.
California Govin Newsom signed a privacy violation bill in September that would make it illegal for first responders to share “photos of a deceased person” at a crime scene “for purposes other than official law enforcement.”
Under the new Kobe Bryant Act, which came into force this year, a first respondent found guilty of a misdemeanor could be fined up to $ 1,000 per violation.
CNN’s Jason Hanna contributed to the report.