Watching as Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashed and burst into flames

Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Tony Imbrenda shares a brief update on the helicopter crash that occurred Sunday morning in the hills of Calabasas.


I was sitting at my dining room table Sunday morning when I heard the whir of helicopter blades.

It was a foggy morning, with visibility at less than 60 feet. I looked toward a nearby window in my Calabasas home and heard a massive boom, followed by a few seconds of silence. Then a fireball erupted on a hillside off Las Virgenes Road.

I had no way of knowing the helicopter that had plunged into the Santa Monica Mountains hillside was carrying basketball legend Kobe Bryant, as well as his young daughter Gianna, and this crash would send fans around the nation into mourning.


It was 9:52 a.m., and I ventured out onto the street. Visibility was poor.

Using binoculars, I was able to see the aircraft had been torn apart and was on fire. It turned out the aircraft was a helicopter, and it was scattered in many pieces on the hillside.

In the ensuing minutes, a stream of firefighters arrived to tackle the fire. I was able to make it closer to the crash site, where I saw debris strewn across the hillside, still smoldering.

Closer to the scene, I also found others who had witnessed the crash.

Eyewitness Jerry Kocharian, 62, said he was standing outside the Church in the Canyon drinking coffee when he heard a helicopter that was flying unusually low and seeming to struggle.

“It wasn’t sounding right,” he said, “and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy.”

The craft vanished into the sheet of fog, and then Kocharian heard the boom and saw a fireball.

“No one could survive that,” he said.

Later, the L.A. Times confirmed that two of those on board were Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.