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Newsletter: Today: Tracing Kobe Bryant’s final flight

Officials continue their investigation into the helicopter crash in Calabasas that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others Sunday morning.
Officials continue their investigation on Monday into the helicopter crash in Calabasas that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others Sunday morning.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Soon before the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other people crashed into a Calabasas hillside, the pilot started a steep climb. What happened next is a mystery federal investigators are now trying to solve.

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Tracing Kobe Bryant’s Final Flight

Half an hour after Kobe Bryant, his daughter and six other passengers boarded a helicopter in a light fog, en route to a tournament in Thousand Oaks, their pilot was worried enough to ask flight controllers to keep track of them.

As he neared the hills of Calabasas, they radioed that he was too low to see on radar. He started a steep climb to avoid a cloud layer — the result of a deteriorating cold front passing through the area with moist northwest flow.

But what happened next is a mystery, as the aircraft suddenly veered off course, descended rapidly and slammed into the hillside, killing everybody on board.

As federal investigators begin their wide-ranging investigation into the deadly crash, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and other emergency personnel have begun the grim, delicate task of removing the victims’ remains, as tourists and fans head to the hillside where they died.

More Kobe Bryant Coverage
— In Orange County, Kobe Bryant grew from basketball’s enfant terrible into a “typical dad.”
— The crash has deeply affected Newport Beach. Seven of the victims were locals.
— Newport Coast neighbors remembered seeing Bryant in Starbucks or trick-or-treating. “We all know him as just Kobe, a person.”
— Gustavo Arellano writes about Kobe Bryant’s special kinship with Latino fans and culture.
— Makeshift memorials keep popping up. Here is what 24 Angelenos had to say about No. 24: “This is a Kobe town.”
— The Lakers were set to host the Clippers tonight, but that game has been postponed due to Bryant’s death.

A New Way to Block Bolton?

President Trump’s lawyers have laid the groundwork for invoking executive privilege in an effort to block potentially damaging testimony from witnesses such as former national security advisor John Bolton. It’s unlikely to succeed in court but could give Republicans a talking point for resisting Democrats’ demands for witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial.

Executive privilege is not mentioned in the Constitution but is an old favorite doctrine for White House lawyers of both parties. It’s best known as President Nixon’s last line of defense when he faced impeachment for the Watergate break-in.

Earlier, the president’s lawyers ignored Bolton’s explosive claims, despite signs some Republican senators might back demands that he testify. And in one memorable moment, Kenneth W. Starr, whose investigation led to President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, warned — apparently unironically — that America had foolishly entered an “age of impeachment.”

Sanders Claims a California Lead

Sen. Bernie Sanders has taken a clear lead in the race for California’s huge trove of Democratic delegates as the presidential campaign moves toward a critical month of primaries. He’s consolidated support from voters on the left, largely at the expense of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the latest UC Berkeley poll for the Los Angeles Times finds — a group that makes up a third of the state’s Democratic primary voters. The rest of its likely primary voters are still divided among several more moderate candidates, hampering national front-runner Joe Biden.

Coronavirus Tests Beijing’s Control

Beijing has a clear message for the Chinese public: Blame local officials in Wuhan for the slow response to the coronavirus that has killed more than 80 people, infected thousands and spread to more than a dozen countries.

The outbreak is a critical test for President Xi Jinping, offering insights into how Beijing’s central authority works or doesn’t work in times of alarm. Chinese social media usually censor criticism of government officials. But angry posts blaming Wuhan officials’ ineptitude and dishonesty have been allowed to boil online — a strategic play by the central government to find a scapegoat as it takes over the response.

In the U.S., 110 people in 26 states are under investigation for possible infection, health authorities said Monday. Follow the latest updates here. Meanwhile, State Department employees being evacuated from the consulate in Wuhan are flying tomorrow to Ontario, Calif., not San Francisco as first announced.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

In January 2003, Santa took a second big journey. For decades, a jolly, 15-foot chicken-wire-and-plaster statue had waved to motorists from atop a candy store off U.S. Highway 101 in Carpinteria, until the owners decided they wanted a less festive look. Local preservationists balked, and an agreement was reached to find Santa a new home.

That new home was 30 miles away, outside Oxnard. The Times documented Santa’s slow ride along the highway. Once he got there, he still needed a facelift, so artists, Boy Scout troops and locals brought him back to life with paint, wire and landscaping. You can see more of Santa’s travels and makeover here.

Jan. 29, 2003: Workers in a strawberry field in Oxnard stop to watch as the giant Santa swaddled in shrink wrap and duct tape travels past on Gonzales Road en route to its new home.
Workers in a strawberry field in Oxnard stop to watch as the giant Santa swaddled in shrink wrap and duct tape travels past on Gonzales Road en route to its new home in 2003.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times )

CALIFORNIA

— California utilities could be banned from charging for electricity during power shut-offs and required to reimburse their customers for spoiled food or other financial losses under legislation that just cleared the state Senate.

— By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to put in place a policy that can be used to deny green cards to immigrants over their use of public benefits, as well as other factors.

— A mentally ill man accused of impaling homeless men with railroad spikes in San Diego has admitted to murdering four people and assaulting nine others over six months in 2016 in a string of attacks that terrorized the community.

— A California man has been arrested in the decades-old killings of five of his infant children, more than a decade after a fisherman found the body of one in a canal near Sacramento.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Oprah Winfrey is promising “a deeper, more substantive discussion” about her much-criticized book club selection “American Dirt.” Meanwhile, the publisher has canceled tonight’s book signing in Pasadena.

Selena Gomez says she fell victim to “certain abuse” while dating Justin Bieber.

— With Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow has been accused of building a multimedia empire on overpriced woo woo. She may finally win some praise with her new Netflix show and its discussion of female sexuality.

Laura Dern has always been ahead of her time, and Hollywood is finally starting to catch up, writes columnist Mary McNamara.

Greta Gerwig talks about the “Little Women” scene she found “shockingly modern.”

NATION-WORLD

— A CIA psychologist has testified that he told self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed that if there was another attack on America, he would kill Mohammed’s son.

— Trump hosted Israel’s two top political figures at the White House, sharing details of his long-stalled plan to balance Palestinian statehood claims with Israel’s security concerns. It’s likely to fail given the lack of Palestinian involvement.

— A divided federal appeals court has overturned Arizona election rules it says discriminated against Latino, African American and Native American voters.

— Federal prosecutors and the FBI have contacted Britain’s Prince Andrew in the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking investigation. He’s publicly suggested he would cooperate but has “provided zero cooperation,” prosecutors said.

BUSINESS

Wells Fargo’s unauthorized-accounts scandal was even worse than you can imagine, writes columnist Michael Hiltzik.

— California regulators are objecting to Riot Games’ $10-million settlement of a gender discrimination lawsuit, saying the women could be entitled to 40 times that much. The company says their tactics are questionable and their math is bad.

— Santa Monica-based scooter giant Bird is buying a German rival, a move that could better position it to compete in Europe with San Francisco-headquartered Lime.

SPORTS

— Times sports writer Sam Farmer sat down with Joe Buck to watch the Super Bowl his legendary dad Jack Buck called 50 years ago — the last one involving the Chiefs, and the only one they won. Here’s what Joe Buck had to say about what’s changed in sports broadcasting.

— The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw wants the Houston Astros to express remorse for stealing signs.

OPINION

— China is putting the U.S. to shame in the fight against plastic trash with a national ban. It’s time the U.S. catch up, starting with California, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— The College Board should ban using expensive calculators on the SAT, because they give the wealthy an unfair advantage, writes Idaho high school student Lilian Smith.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— #Grannyhair: Women are ditching hair dye, and going gray is getting trendier. (Washington Post)

— Can Japan break its addiction to disposable packaging? (Longreads)

Under Armour was supposed to be the next Nike. Instead it’s grasping for a hold in the market and undergoing the biggest management shift in its history. This is the story of how it lost its edge. (New York Times)

ONLY IN L.A.

California used to be where greyhounds raced. Decades later, it’s where they go to retire after careers in Tijuana, and two L.A. groups help prepare them for family life. It only takes a week or so to “turn a racing machine into a pet,” the president of one L.A. adoption group says. In Chino and La Habra Heights, volunteers help the dogs decompress with attention, walks and even massages. “These dogs have worked hard in their lives,” she says. “They deserve to be pampered.”

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


Newsletter
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times

Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
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