The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Tuesday said that the probable cause of the January 2020 Kobe Bryant chopper crash was due to errors made by the pilot.
The NTSB primarily blamed the helicopter pilot Ara Zobayan for a series of poor decisions that led him to fly blindly into a wall of clouds where he became so disoriented he thought he was climbing when the craft was plunging toward a Southern California hillside.
Zobayan, an experienced pilot, ignored his training, violated flight rules by flying into conditions where he couldn't see and failed to take alternate measures, such as landing or switching to auto-pilot, that would have averted the tragedy,” said Robert Sumwait, NTSB Chairman
“Here is a case where a pilot who is well regarded got into a very bad situation, Sumwalt said. The scenario we believe happened he is flying along, he realizes that he's sort of getting boxed in with visibility and then he must have made the decision, You know what, I'm just going to punch up through these clouds and get on top,” he added.
The board said it was likely he felt self-induced pressure to deliver Bryant to the destination. It's not the first time investigators have seen that happen with celebrities. Vice-Chairman Bruce Landsberg cited separate aircraft crashes that killed musicians Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Aaliyah.
NTSB member Michael Graham said Zobayan ignored his training and added that as long as helicopter pilots continue flying into clouds without relying on instruments, which require a high level of training, a certain percentage isn't going to come out alive.
On January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six others were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas of southern California.