A witness to the deadly crash of a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others said it sounded normal just before slamming into a hillside, and wreckage at the scene showed no sign of engine failure, federal investigators said in a report released Friday.
The Jan. 26 crash occurred in cloudy conditions, and experts said the “investigative update” from the National Transportation Safety Board reinforces the notion that the pilot became disoriented and crashed while trying to get to clear skies around Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles.
The veteran pilot, Ara Zobayan, came agonizingly close to finding his way out of the clouds.
He told air traffic control he was climbing to 4,000 feet (1,219 meters). He ascended to 2,300 feet (701 meters), just 100 feet (30 meters) from what camera footage later reviewed by the NTSB showed was the top of the clouds.
But rather than continuing higher, Zobayan began a high-speed descent and left turn in rapidly rising terrain. He slammed into the hillside at more than 180 mph (290 kph) and was descending at 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) per minute.