NTSB to release probable cause of crash that killed Kobe Bryant, 8 others

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Blame and speculation have been widespread since the Jan. 26, 2020 disaster, but federal investigators have so far remined silent on how the aircraft crashed into a Calabasas hillside that foggy morning, killing all nine people aboard.

Bryant’s widow blamed the pilot for the death of the basketball legend and their 13 year-old daughter Gianna, who were on their way to a youth basketball tournament at Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy.

She and family members of other victims pointed the finger at the companies that owned and operated the Sikorsky S-76 chopper.

The helicopter companies said the thick fog encountered in the San Fernando Valley was an act of God, and blamed air traffic controllers.

Pilot Ara Zobayan’s brother said he knew the risk of flying in inclement weather.

“I think the whole world is watching because it’s Kobe,” said Ed Coleman, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor and safety science expert.

The aircraft had climbed sharply and had nearly cleared through the clouds before abruptly plunging into the hills and sparking a brush fire on impact.

There was no sign of mechanical or engine failure, and it was believed to be an accident, the National Transportation Safety Board has previously said.

“The ‘probable cause’ is not assigning blame — it is more the most likely scenario that caused the accident,” Anthony Brickhouse, a former NTSB investigator, told The Post in January.

The NTSB — an independent federal agency that investigates crashes but has no enforcement powers — is expected to make recommendations to prevent future crashes.

Federal lawmakers have sponsored the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act to mandate a Terrain Awareness and Warning System on all helicopters carrying six or more passengers.

The helicopter didn’t have the system, which signals when a crash is imminent. The FAA requires it only for air ambulances, despite the NSTB’s previous suggestion.

Former NTSB Chairman James Hall said he hopes the safety measure will be adopted.

“Historically, it has required high-profile tragedies to move the regulatory needle forward,” he said.

Others in the industry discourage the move, with Helicopter Association International President and CEO James Viola calling across the board mandates “ineffective” and “potentially hazardous.”

Helicopter Association International discouraged what it called a “one solution fits all” method. President and CEO James Viola said in a statement that mandating specific equipment to the entire industry is “ineffective” and “potentially hazardous.”

The devices cost as much as $35,000 per helicopter and require training and maintenance.

Coleman, the Embry-Riddle safety science professor, said the warning system may not have prevented the crash because the terrain could have constantly triggered the alarm and distracted the pilot.

Federal investigators said Zobayan might have been disoriented in the low visibility and “misperceived” the angles at which he was descending and banking, according to NTSB documents.

The six other victims were were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter. Payton.

The crash prompted multiple lawsuits.

Vanessa Bryant accused Island Express Helicopters Inc., which operated the aircraft, and its owner, Island Express Holding Corp, of not properly training or supervising Zobayan, an experienced pilot who often transported Kobe.

Vanessa also sued the late pilot’s estate, and local sheriffs for sharing unauthorized photos of the crash site; prompting a change in the law.

Families of other victims sued the helicopter companies but not the pilot.

Island Express Helicopters sued FAA air traffic controllers, saying the crash was caused by their “series of erroneous acts and/or omissions,” claiming Zobayan’s request for radar assistance was improperly denied.

Officials have said the controller terminated service because radar couldn’t be maintained at the altitude the aircraft was flying.

With AP wires

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