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The helicopter crash that left Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others dead was likely caused by the pilot’s “spatial disorientation,” National Transportation Safety Board officials said Tuesday.
Bryant, his daughter Gigi, and seven others were killed when the helicopter they were on crashed into a hillside in Southern California last January. They were all flying from Orange County to a youth basketball tournament in Ventura County when the helicopter encountered thick fog near Calabasas.
The pilot, identified as Ara Zobayan who had 10 years of experience flying in the area, climbed sharply before banking abruptly and plunging into the hillside. The NTSB said initially there was no sign of mechanical failure and it appeared to be an accident.
Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, blamed the pilot. She and the families of the other victims also faulted the companies that owned and operated the helicopter. The pilot’s brother didn’t blame the NBA legend but said he knew the risks of flying.
Island Express Helicopters denied responsibility in the crash and said it was “an act of God” it couldn’t control.
Those who died along with Bryant and his daughter include: Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. Alyssa and Payton were Gianna’s teammates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.