As investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) comb the Calabasas, California area for clues, images of the helicopter wreckage that killed American basketballer, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others have been released.
The NTSB, a federal investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation, detailed the helicopter’s final moments before it crashed into rural California hills under foggy conditions on Sunday.
The images, released on Tuesday, January 28, paint a bleak picture of complete destruction as the mangled husk of the helicopter laid strewn across the hillside.
The crash broke the helicopter into pieces on impact, creating a debris field stretching about 500 to 600 feet.
The NTSB expects to issue its first report on the crash in 10 days, but that will focus just on the facts it has determined and not the likely cause of the crash. The investigation into the cause could take 12 to 18 months.
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According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) spokesman Josh Rubenstein, visibility was so low Sunday morning that its rescue helicopters had to be grounded.
On Tuesday, the NTSB noted that in his final transmission on Sunday, Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter that crashed, told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer.
When air traffic control asked the pilot what he planned to do, there was no reply, NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy explained. The last radar contact was around 9:45 a.m. Sunday and was never heard from again.
Radar data indicated the helicopter climbed 2,300 feet and began a left descending turn.
The crash claimed the lives of Bryant (41), his daughter ‘Gigi’ (13); as well as decorated baseball coach John Altobelli (56), his wife Kerri Altobelli and daughter Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah Chester (45) and daughter Payton Chester (14); and Ara Zobayan, the pilot (50).
In the meantime, the NTSB said it has finished its recovery work at the crash site and turned over the scene to local authorities.
According to a report from CNN, all the pieces of the helicopter wreckage needed for the investigation have been removed and have been transported to a secure location – in addition to evidence that includes an iPad, cellphone, maintenance records and other documentation.
The crash site remains closed to the public, and it is still a misdemeanour to attempt to access it, as hazardous materials such as fuel and magnesium need to be cleaned up.