Ara Zobayan was the pilot of the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, California on January 26 killing Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Zobayan and six other people were killed in the crash. Three of those have been named as Orange Coast College coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa. Another victim was later named Christina Mauser, a high school coach at Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar.
The group was en route to a junior basketball game at the Mamba Sports Academy, according to the New York Times.
The helicopter involved in the crash was a Sikorsky S-76, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said. The registration was N72EX. That’s the same number shown on the photographs of Kobe’s private helicopter in the past. The helicopter was built in 1991.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Helicopter Was Registered to IEX Helicopters
The helicopter involved in the crash was registered to Island Express Helicopters of Fillmore, California. According to the National Transportation Safety Board database, the helicopter involved in the crash was not previously involved in any incidents.
Flight Radar indicates that the helicopter left John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m. local time. The flight path took it over Boyle Heights, close to Dodger Stadium, and over Glendale.
According to defense contractor Lockheed Martin, the S-76 helicopters were originally built in the 1970s to work with off-shore oil drilling and were later repurposed. Martin bought Sikorsky Aircrafts in 2015. Among the pilots who work for the company is former “Falcon Crest” actor Lorenzo Lamas.
2. The Cause of the Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant Remains Under Investigation
Officials have said that the cause of the crash that killed Kobe Bryant remains under investigation. The Los Angeles Times’ Richard Winton tweeted that prior to the crash, the mountains around Calabasas were “fogged in.” Winton tweeted, “Small plane crash on Las Virgenes on the mountains, which are fogged in right now. I heard the plane splutter and then a boom.”
Lockheed Martin has said that the company will aid the investigation into the crash. Juan Bonilla of Calabasas told KTLA that he did not feel that visibility was not that low immediately prior to the crash. The Los Angeles Times has reported that officials had grounded all helicopters in the area prior to the crash. The Sun reports that the air traffic control center told Zobayan prior to the crash, “You’re too low.”
3. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka Said His Life Flashed Before His Eyes During a Helicopter Trip With Kobe
Kobe was known to have regularly taken a helicopter to practice during his playing days. Online records show that following his retirement, Kobe sold the helicopter to IEX Helicopters. Kobe continued to rent the helicopter from time to time. Bryant told GQ Magazine in 2010 that the use of the helicopter, taking it to games at the Staples Center, was also for health reasons. Bryant said that the helicopter journey allowed him to be fresh prior to games.
In 2017, Lakes general manager Rob Pelinka told the Los Angeles Times that his life flashed before his eyes during a helicopter trip with Bryant. Pelinka said, “My life was flashing before my eyes. I almost had a heart attack. Kobe’s just sitting there calm and collected.” Pelinka said that Bryant had instructed the pilot to perform elaborate military-style manoeuvers during their trip together.
34. The Helicopter’s Manufacturer Has Tweeted Condolences to Kobe’s Family
Sikorsky, the helicopter’s manufacturer, has tweeted their condolences to Kobe Bryant’s family. The company said, “We extend our sincerest condolences to all those affected by today’s Sikorsky S-76B accident in Calabasas, California. We have been in contact with the NTSB and stand ready to provide assistance and support to the investigative authorities and our customer.”
5. In 2018, Kobe Helped Yaisel Puig Buy His Own Helicopter
In 2018, Yaisel Puig bought a helicopter with the help of Kobe. Puig told the Los Angeles Times in 2016 that it was dream to own a helicopter.
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