Jerry Kocharian, 62, was standing outside the Church in the Canyon drinking coffee when he heard a helicopter flying unusually low and seeming to struggle.
“It wasn’t sounding right, and it was real low,” Kocharian said. “I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy.”
The helicopter vanished into the sheet of fog, then there was a boom and “a big fireball,” he said.
“No one could survive that.”
Kocharian was among several who watched as Bryant’s chopper crashed in Calabasas on Sunday morning, killing nine people, including the NBA legend and daughter Gianna.
The crash occurred shortly before 10 a.m. near Las Virgenes Road, south of Agoura Road, according to a watch commander for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The helicopter departed John Wayne Airport at 9:06 a.m. Sunday, according to publicly available flight records. The helicopter passed over Boyle Heights, near Dodger Stadium, and circled over Glendale during the flight.
Scott Daehlin 61, was taking a break from setting up sound for a service at Church of the Canyon, which is below the crash site, when he heard the helicopter overheard.
“Because of its proximity to the ground, I knew something was wrong. It was hovering real low, like they were searching to land. It was making a slow left turn. It was about 9:44 a.m., and then the impact happened. I heard a crunch. I don’t think it pancaked. I think it hit rotors first,” Daehlin said “I immediately called 911.”
Daehlin said in the thick fog the deputies and fire trucks initially drove past the crash site in the hills west of Stokes Canyon.
The church sits on the west side of Las Virgenes, across from the hillside.
The helicopter that carried Bryant was a 1991 Sikorsky S-76B built in 1991. It had the tail number N72EX. It departed John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana at 9:06 a.m. Sunday, according to publicly available flight records. The helicopter passed over Boyle Heights, near Dodger Stadium, and circled over Glendale during the flight. The NTSB database didn’t show any prior incidents or accidents for the helicopter.
The helicopter is registered to Island Express Holding Corp. The firm is in Fillmore, according to the California secretary of state business database. The business registration describes the company as offering “helicopter flight charter.”