The pilot of the helicopter that crashed and killed basketball superstar Kobe Bryant apparently climbed to avoid a cloud layer just before slamming into a hillside, federal investigators say.
Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday the copter was about 700 meters off the ground before it plunged more than 300 meters into the hills north of Los Angeles.
Air traffic say the pilot’s message that he had to climb to avoid the clouds was the last thing they heard from the copter.
Homendy says the debris field is “extensive.”
“A piece of the tail is down the hill, the fuselage is on the other side of that hill and the main rotor is about 91 meters beyond that,” she said, adding that everything is looked at during the investigation — the pilot, the aircraft, and the environment.
Federal rules do not require helicopters to carry black boxes.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine killed in Sunday’s crash that stunned the sports world and left fans and his fellow athletes speechless.
The pilot also died along with Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli. The helicopter was heading to a youth basketball tournament in which Gianna Bryant was scheduled to play.
Kobe Bryant was 41 years-old and will be remembered as one of the greatest professional basketball players ever to step onto the court. He played 20 years in the NBA, nearly all of it with the Los Angeles Lakers — wining five NBA championships and the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 2008. He is the fourth all-time leading scorer. LeBron James passed him for number three on the list just one day before the crash.
Some of Bryant’s accomplishments include becoming the NBA’s youngest all-star in 1998, when he was only 19 years old; an 81-point game in 2006 – the second-highest of all time; and Olympic Gold medals in 2008 and 2012.