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Poor decision-making and disorientation confirmed as the reason for Kobe Bryant’s death

More saddening details have emerged regarding the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and seven other passengers last year.

Basketball legend Kobe Bryant was tragically killed last early last year when his private helicopter crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, California. The crash killed nine people, including his 13-year-old daughter.

More details have now emerged of the fatal incident, regarding pilot Ara Zobayan. It was reported that the pilot flew into a thick layer of clouds and became so spatially disorientated that he could not determine up from down.

Kobe Crash
Photo: Mark Terril

Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that Mr. Zobayan’s decision to fly into the clouds violated federal standards that require the pilot to be able to discern where the helicopter is going at all times.

Zobayan told air traffic controllers just prior to the crash that the helicopter was climbing out of thick cloud cover when they were actually descending into it, further cementing the fact the pilot was highly disorientated.

NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt stated, “This maneuver is consistent with the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation in limited visibility conditions. We are talking about spatial disorientation where literally the pilot may not know which way is up or down, whether he or she is leaning left or right.”

Furthermore, Zobayan “was flying under visual flight orders or VFR which legally prohibited him from penetrating the clouds, but he did so anyway,” said Mr. Sumwalt, who said the pilot went against his own training flying into the cloud cover.

Zobayan was a highly experienced pilot with over 1,200 hours of flying experience in the helicopter he crashed, often flying Bryant as well.

Byrant and Zobayan shared a close friendship as well, which the NTSB believe also to be a determining factor for Zobayan to fly into the unsafe conditions, feeling he may have been “compelled” to do so.

It won’t bring them back, but at least the families of the nine killed will have some reasoning behind the crash that took their lost ones.