Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident.
"There were no survivors... There were nine people on board the aircraft, the pilot plus eight individuals," Villanueva said.
Early reports on Sunday said five people had been on board the helicopter when it crashed in foggy conditions in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. The helicopter carrying Bryant was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.
Bryant, who won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and was considered one of basketball’s all-time greats, was 41.
Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna was among fatalities in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of the NBA icon, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed on Sunday.
"L.A. is grieving with the Bryant family over the loss of Gianna, who perished with her father and friends in today's tragedy," Garcetti wrote on Twitter.
There were no survivors. A teammate from Bryant’s daughter’s basketball team, a parent of the teammate, and the pilot were also killed, NBC News reported.
“This is a moment that leaves us struggling to find words that express the magnitude of shock and sorrow we are all feeling right now, and I am keeping Kobe’s entire family in my prayers at this time of unimaginable grief,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
Shocked fans gathered outside the Staples Center arena in Los Angeles around a wreath with a message: “Kobe we love you RIP.” Some in the crowd dabbed tears as others laid flowers and basketball sneakers at the wreath.
First responders put out the flames at the crash site, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department said, posting a picture of a fire truck and smoke emerging from the brush in a ravine.
Bryant had been known to use a helicopter for travel since his days as a player for the Los Angeles Lakers, when he commuted to games in a Sikorsky S-76 chopper, the celebrity news website TMZ said.
When Kobe visited Dubai
The Federal Aviation Administration identified the crashed helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76, saying in a statement that the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate.
The cause of the crash was unknown, but conditions at the time were such that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff's department grounded their helicopters.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said the rugged terrain complicated efforts to recover the remains. He estimated it would take at least a couple of days to complete that task before identifications can be made.
Bryant's helicopter left Santa Ana in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, shortly after 9 a.m. and circled for a time just east of Interstate 5, near Glendale. Air traffic controllers noted poor visibility around Burbank, just to the north, and Van Nuys, to the northwest.
After holding up the helicopter for other aircraft, they cleared the Sikorsky S-76 to proceed north along Interstate 5 through Burbank before turning west to follow U.S Route 101, the Ventura Highway.
Shortly after 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned again, toward the southeast, and climbed to more than 2000 feet (609 meters). It then descended and crashed into the hillside at about 1400 feet (426 meters), according to data from Flightradar24.
When it struck the ground, the helicopter was flying at about 160 knots (184 mph) and descending at a rate of more than 4000 feet per minute, the data showed.
The chopper went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks was holding a basketball tournament on Sunday.
Federal transportation safety investigators were on their way to the scene. Among other things, they will look at the pilot's history, the chopper's maintenance records and the records of its owner and operator, said NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy at a news conference.
Kurt Deetz, a pilot who used to fly Bryant in the chopper, said the crash was more likely caused by bad weather than engine or mechanical issues.
``The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft _ it just doesn't happen,'' he told the Los Angeles Times.
Justin Green, an aviation attorney in New York who flew helicopters in the Marine Corps, said pilots can become disoriented in low visibility, losing track of which direction is up. Green said a pilot flying an S-76 would be instrument-rated, meaning that person could fly the helicopter without relying on visual cues from outside.
The National Transportation Safety Board typically issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned. A ruling on the cause can take a year or more.
Colin Storm was in his living room in Calabasas when he heard what sounded to him like a low-flying airplane or helicopter.
"It was very foggy so we couldn't see anything,'' he said. ``But then we heard some sputtering and then a boom.''
The fog cleared a bit, and Storm could see smoke rising from the hillside in front of his home.
Firefighters hiked in with medical equipment and hoses, and medical personnel rappelled to the site from a helicopter, but found no survivors, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
News of the charismatic superstar's death rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to
Bryant played all 20 of his National Basketball Association seasons with the Lakers, winning five championships and being named an all-star 18 times.
He was the third-leading scorer in league history with 33,643 points, until LeBron James passed him on Saturday.
Nicknamed the Black Mamba, he became eligible to enter the Hall of Fame this year and is certain to be selected when the 2020 class is enshrined.
Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, had four daughters: Gianna, Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born in June 2019.
Bryant’s star power translated into the entertainment world as he mingled with show-business stars in Los Angeles.
In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball.” But he was also accused of sexual assault in 2003 by an employee at a Colorado hotel, tarnishing his reputation and leading to a media storm to cover his trial.
Bryant denied the allegations and charges eventually were dropped after the woman refused to testify.
Bryant and his wife filed for divorce in 2011 after 10 years of marriage, but the couple said in 2013 they had reconciled.
Bryant’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, also played in the NBA, and Kobe demonstrated from an early age he would surpass his father’s accomplishments.
The Philadelphia native went straight from high school to the NBA, skipping the college ranks. Since he was still only 17 years old, his parents needed to co-sign his first contract with the Lakers and he played his first game with the team shortly after turning 18 in 1996.
He also won two Olympic gold medals, part of the U.S. team in 2008 and 2012.
He retired after the 2015-2016 NBA season because of mounting injuries. In recent years, he had focused his attention on philanthropy and business ventures.
Kobe Bryant facts
Name: Kobe Bryant
Former Team: Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2016)
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Born: August 23, 1978
Died: January 26, 2020
Height: 6feet, 6inches, 1.98m
Weight: 212lbs, 96kg
- Bryant was the son of Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant, who played eight seasons in the NBA
- Bryant spent eight years of his childhood with his family in Italy
- Bryant married Vanessa Laine, April 18, 2001. Daughter Natalia was born in January, 2003; daughter Gianna was born May, 2006; daughter Bianka was born December, 2016 and daughter Capri was born June, 2019
- Bryant won five NBA championships - 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010
- Named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in leading Lakers to titles in 2009 and 2010
- Earned Olympic gold medals with USA at 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics
- Named NBA regular-season MVP in 2007-08 season and a record-tying four-time NBA All-Star Game MVP - 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011
- On January 22, 2006 scored a career-high 81 points in Lakers’ 122-104 victory over Toronto, second-most points in a game in NBA history
- In 2018, his movie “Dear Basketball” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
- Selected with 13th overall choice by Charlotte Hornets in 1996 NBA draft, becoming the 27th player to join NBA straight from high school.
- Acquired by Lakers shortly after draft
- Named an NBA All-Star 18 times - 1998 and 2000-2016
- Two-time NBA scoring champion - 2006 and 2007
- 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner
- Had both his jersey numbers, 8 and 24, retired by the Lakers, an unprecedented move
- Scored 33,643 points, grabbed 7,047 rebounds and passed off 6,306 assists over 1,346 career NBA games
- Scored a season-high 60 points in his last NBA game on April 13, 2016 in a 101-96 Lakers’ victory over Utah, becoming the oldest player in NBA history to score 60 points at 37 years and 234 days
Some of the significant injuries that affected Bryant during his career:
- Broken metacarpal bone in right hand, 1999-00 season
- Right index finger laceration, sprained right shoulder, 2003-04
- Severely sprained right ankle, 2004-05
- Index finger avulsion fracture, right knee swelling, sprained left ankle, 2009-10
- Torn left Achilles tendon requiring surgery, 2012-13
- Broken bone in left knee, 2013-14
- Torn right shoulder rotator cuff, 2015