NTSB Releases Findings on Kobe Bryant Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded its investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, and the ruling: it was caused by pilot error. According to the NTSB, Ara Zobayan – who was also killed in the accident along with Kobe and seven others – ignored his training and violated flight rules by flying into conditions where he couldn’t see.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the experienced pilot didn’t take alternative measures – like slowing down and landing or switching to autopilot – that would’ve averted the tragedy. The NTSB says that when Zobayan decided to climb above the clouds, he entered a trap that has caused numerous crashes.

Once a pilot loses visual cues by flying into fog or darkness, the inner ear can send inaccurate signals to the brain that causes spatial disorientation (as happened with JFK Jr back in 1999). It’s sometimes known as “the leans,” which makes pilots believe they’re flying straight and level when they are banking. But also:

  • The NTSB says they believe that Zobayan felt pressure to make sure he got his passengers to the game at the Mamba Sports Academy. He also may have felt what they referred to as “continuation bias,” an unconscious tendency among pilots to stick with the original plan despite changing conditions. The way NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg explained it, “The closer you get to the destination the more you think just maybe you can pull this off.”
  • Zobayan’s company, Island Express Helicopters Inc., isn’t cleared either. The company was also cited for in inadequate review and oversight of safety matters. Still, there was no sign of mechanical failure, and investigators say the pilot wasn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

What happens now? As we told you before, Vanessa Bryant has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express and Zoyaban. She claimed that Island didn’t properly train or supervise Zobayan. In addition, her paperwork says that the pilot was careless and negligent to fly in fog and should have aborted the flight.

  • Meanwhile, Berge Zoyaban – Ara’s brother – says that Kobe knew the risks of flying and that the survivors aren’t entitled to damages from Ara’s estate. And Island Express has denied responsibility, calling the crash “an act of God” that was out of their control. Lawyers for Berge Zobayan and Island Express said they had no comment on the NTSB findings.

Source: Associated Press

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