NTSB Rules Kobe Crash Due To Pilot’s Poor Decisions and Disorientation

Smoke is seen rising from the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in Calabasas in January 2020, killing all nine passengers on board including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled Tuesday, Feb. 9, that the helicopter crash in Calabasas that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant and eight others in January 2020 was because of the pilot’s decision to fly in unsafe conditions. 

Pilot Ara Zobayan chose to fly through clouds and fog, federal investigators said, which resulted in his spatial disorientation and losing control of the aircraft. Though these details have long been known, the NTSB ruling concludes any official investigation into the circumstances. 

The board also said that Zobayan “likely” felt pressure to get Bryant to his destination. Additionally, helicopter operator Island Express did not review safety management procedures well enough. These two factors contributed to the crash, as well, the board said. 

The helicopter crashed into the hillside near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street mid-morning on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, on its way to Camarillo Airport for a basketball tournament. Along with Zobayan and Bryant, the helicopter was also carrying Bryant’s daughter Gianna, several of her teammates and some parents and coaches. Also killed in the crash were Christina Mauser; Payton and Sarah Chester; and John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli.

“Every day, since Jan 26, 2020, I’ve thought about the nine lives lost in Calabasas, just as I do the lives lost in so many other tragedies,” NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy tweeted. “To the families: Your loved ones will never be forgotten. We’ll continue to fight for them & the changes needed to prevent another crash.”