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Company that owned the helicopter involved in Kobe Bryant’s death suspends operations

Sikorsky S-76B helicopter
This 2018 photo from Van Nuys Airport shows a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter, the model that crashed Sunday carrying Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others.
(Matt Hartman / Associated Press)

Island Express Helicopters — the company that owned the aircraft that crashed Sunday, killing nine people including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna — has suspended operations indefinitely, the company said in a statement Thursday evening.

“The shock of the accident affected all staff, and management decided that service would be suspended until such time as it was deemed appropriate for staff and customers,” the company said in a statement.

According to an older version of the company’s website, Island Express has been family-owned since 1986 and operated “the West Coast’s largest fleet of Sikorsky S-76 passenger aircraft, the most-trusted name in helicopters.” Along with daily flights to Santa Catalina Island, it sold customizable charters, aerial tours and vacation packages.

The company advertised its Sikorsky S-76 as providing a premium flying experience, noting customers could “fly in the same helicopter used by the President of the United States and the British Royal Family.”

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Bryant regularly used a Sikorsky S-76B that was built in 1991 and owned by the charter service.

The helicopter departed John Wayne Airport at 9:06 a.m. Sunday, according to publicly available flight records. It passed over Boyle Heights, near Dodger Stadium, and circled over Glendale during the flight.

The chopper wasn’t equipped with an alarm system that could have warned the pilot that he was approaching a hillside, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The agency recommended 16 years ago that the Federal Aviation Administration require all helicopters carrying six or more passengers to be equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system.

Times Community News contributed to this report.


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