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Last moments of Kobe Bryant’s flight appear to be captured on audio recording

The site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.
The site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times )

As authorities try to determine what caused Kobe Bryant’s helicopter to crash, killing him and eight other people Sunday, a new front-porch video seems to provide audio of the fateful flight’s final moments.

The chopper was taking Bryant and his group from Orange County to his basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks. The retired NBA player was scheduled to coach his daughter Gianna’s team in a game.

Authorities said it could take months to determine the cause of the crash and have urged witnesses to come forward.

One video seems to capture audio of the crash from a Calabasas resident’s front-door camera. The recording captures the sound of a helicopter flying nearby and then sounds like a crash.

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“We heard a sputter coming through and then a boom,” the resident told KABC-TV, adding that she gave the tape to investigators.

The audio confirms what witnesses to the crash have said. A Times reporter on the scene when the crash occurred reported hearing a massive boom followed by a few seconds of silence. Then a fireball erupted on a hillside off Las Virgenes Road.

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 told The Times on Sunday. “I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy.”

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The helicopter vanished into the sheet of fog, then there was a boom and “a big fireball,” he said.

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.”

NTSB investigator Jennifer Homendy said at Tuesday’s news conference that the helicopter was at 2,300 feet when it lost communication with air traffic controllers. The helicopter was descending at more than 2,000 feet per minute at the time of impact.

“So we know that this was a high-energy impact crash, and the helicopter was in a descending left bank,” Homendy said.

The chopper hit the hillside at an elevation of 1,085 feet, about 20 to 30 feet above an outcropping of the hill. But even if the pilot had been able to fly above that outcropping, he would have faced new hazards ahead.

“There are actually other higher hills surrounding it,” said Bill English, a lead investigator.

On Tuesday, the NTSB released the first images of the crash site in the form of a short video.

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The video shows the charred wreckage of the helicopter, which broke apart on impact. 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.


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