Federal investigators on Tuesday released a dramatic video showing the scene where Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashed into a Calabasas hillside, killing the NBA great, his daughter and seven other people.
The National Transportation Safety Board video shows the charred wreckage of the helicopter, which broke apart on impact Sunday morning. Much of what remained of the chopper was burned beyond recognition. But a wheel and parts of the fuselage appear not to have been burned.
The video was released as the NTSB was trying to determine the cause of the crash, a task expected to take months.
NTSB investigators said Monday that just before the crash, the pilot rapidly ascended to avoid a cloud layer.
Jennifer Homendy said the pilot, who was flying from Orange County to Ventura County, requested special visual flight rules, which allow pilots to fly under 1,000 feet. A marine layer had settled over the region Sunday morning, and some areas were shrouded in fog.
Homendy said it remained unclear why the helicopter slammed into the hillside. Debris from the crash was scattered across 600 feet, she said.
“It was a pretty devastating accident scene,” she added. “There is an impact area on one of the hills, and a piece of the tail is down the hill on the left side of the hill. The fuselage is on the other side of that hill. Then the main rotor is about hundred yards beyond that. The debris field is about 500 to 600 feet.”
The chartered helicopter left John Wayne Airport on Sunday morning after Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six other passengers boarded the flight for a basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks.
Half an hour later, they were flying over thickening clouds in the San Fernando Valley. The pilot was worried enough to ask flight controllers to keep track of them. As he approached the hills of Calabasas at 150 mph, the tower radioed him, telling him he was too low to be seen on radar.
The pilot began to climb, rising 765 feet in 36 seconds, enough to clear the nearby hills.
But the Sikorsky S-76B suddenly veered off course and descended rapidly. The twin-engine aircraft dropped 325 feet in 14 seconds, reaching 176 mph before losing contact with air traffic control.