With the recovery effort completed at the site where Kobe Bryant and eight others died in a helicopter crash Sunday, officials are now working to clean up hazardous materials in the hillside above Calabasas.
The area is still closed to the public as officials remove debris and deal with magnesium and other hazardous and toxic materials in the ground following the crash. It will take some time to fully remove the substances from the area, experts say.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the cause of the crash continues, with investigators collecting the shattered parts of the chopper.
The helicopter was taking Bryant and his group from Orange County to a basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. The retired NBA player was scheduled to coach his daugther Gianna’s team in a game.
Accompanying the Bryants were John Altobelli, 56, longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College; his wife, Keri, 46; their daughter Alyssa, 13; Christina Mauser, 38, an assistant basketball coach at the Mamba Sports Academy; Sarah Chester, 45; Chester’s daughter Payton, 13; and the pilot, 50-year-old Ara Zobayan.
On Tuesday, the NTSB said the chopper was not equipped with a terrain alarm system that could have warned the pilot he was approaching a hillside.
NTSB investigator Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference that the helicopter was at 2,300 feet when it lost communication with air traffic controllers. It was descending at more than 2,000 feet per minute at the time of impact.
Homendy said her agency had recommended 16 years ago that the Federal Aviation Administration require that all helicopters carrying six or more passengers be equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system, adding that the FAA has “failed to act” on the proposal. Because the FAA didn’t follow the recommendation, the helicopter that crashed Sunday was not legally required to have the system.
Shortly after the news conference, an FAA spokesman disputed that assessment, noting that the FAA requires the terrain alarm systems for helicopter air ambulance operations.
It remained unclear what the pilot knew about the terrain surrounding him or whether he had become disoriented.
On Wednesday, Vanessa Bryant thanked the public for its support and expressed her grief over the crash that killed her husband and daughter.
“There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever.”