NTSB: Pilot tried to climb to avoid clouds before crashing into hillside


LOS ANGELES, California (KGPE) – There are many unanswered questions about the deadly helicopter crash that claimed nine lives including basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation at the crash site on the hillside in Calabasas.

“It was a pretty devastating accident scene,” said NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy.

The NTSB is sifting through a 500 – 600 foot debris field for clues as what went wrong. They say the helicopter didn’t have a black box so they will look for other electronics.

“We look at man, machine, the environment, and weather is just a small portion of that,” said Homendy.

The chopper left from Orange County just after 9 a.m. and was heading to Bryant’s training academy in Thousand Oaks. According to flight data, the chopper went down around 9:45 a.m. The NTSB is now investigating what happened during the 45 minute flight.

In a press conference Monday, the NTSB revealed with the clouds and fog Sunday morning, the pilot requested special visual rules allowing them to fly under low visibility.

“The pilot advised they were climbing to avoid a cloud layer. When ATC asked what the pilot planned to do, there was no reply,” said Homendy.

Foggy conditions were considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers, but the LA County Sheriff explained their helicopters are much smaller than the one that crashed.

“Our helicopters, the ones at Long Beach that are the patrol helicopters, they are smaller and only seat four passengers and they don’t do instrumental flight, visual only,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

The NTSB said the pilot was experienced, certified, and had clocked more than 8,000 hours of flight time.

“The important thing about flying is visibility,” said Fresno County Sheriff’s pilot Johnny Reyes.

Reyes said conditions can change quick for even the most experienced.

“I think every good pilot knows their limitations and any aspiring pilot should learn not just how to fly the aircraft but your personal limitations basically the risk versus the reward,” said Reyes.

The NTSB will be collecting evidence at the crash site for five days. They will not determined the cause of the crash during that time. All the analysis will be done off-site, and an official report could take more than a year.

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