Basketball fans are still in shock over the death of Kobe Bryant (41) and his daughter, Gianna (13). As we continue to try to make sense of this tragedy, more information has come to light about the fatal helicopter crash on January 26.
Multiple 911 calls from Calabasas, California, have been released by the Los Angeles Fire Department. The callers reported hearing explosions and seeing the aircraft go down over the hills.
“I can hear this plane, I think it was in the clouds,” a male caller reported. “We couldn’t see it — and then we just heard a boom, and a dead sound. Then I can see the flames.”
That caller mistook the craft for a small airplane, but other callers were able to correctly identify it as a helicopter.
There were nine passengers aboard the Sikorsky S-76B on that fateful dead. No survivors walked away from the crash. The LA County Medical Examiner has confirmed that all the passengers died of blunt force trauma during the crash, meaning that they were dead before the flames ignited.
Kobe and Gianna’s bodies have been released back to their family. Basketball coach Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and her teenage daughter Payton, and the Altobelli family–coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa–were all killed alongside the basketball legend. The pilot also died in the crash.
Matt Mauser, Christina’s husband, told the “Today” show that the group of young athletes and coaches was like a family. “They were amazing people … They were wonderful, they were warm,” Mauser said. “They loved their kids and they were so proud that their kids were growing.”
A home near the crash site in Calabasas might provide a valuable clue about the crash. A Google Nest security camera captured audio of the helicopter as it crashed into the mountain on that foggy Sunday morning.
The homeowner, Ronna Leavitt, turned over the recording to the National Transportation Safety Board, but ABC managed to acquire a copy. Leavitt described seeing the Sikorsky aircraft “make a U-turn” overhead just before the crash. The audio recording includes a massive boom followed by a terrible silence.
NTSB lead investigator Jennifer Homendy revealed that the Sikorsky S-76 was not equipped with a Terrain Awareness Warning System–a piece of equipment that could have prevented this tragedy.
Following a similar 2004 crash in Texas, the NTSB issued a recommendation for all helicopters like the one Bryant leased to be fitted with this type of warning system.
“They did not implement the recommendation,” Homendy said during a press conference. “Certainly, TAWS could have helped to provide information to the pilot on what terrain the pilot was flying in.”