The cause of the tragic Kobe Bryant helicopter crash is finally revealed

New information about the crash that caused Kobe Bryant’s death has come to light

Kobe Bryant
(Image credit: Allen Berezovsky / Getty Images)

New information about the helicopter crash that caused the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant and other passengers has come to light. 

In 2020, Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. The other passengers of this aircraft, including his daughter Gianna, and her teammates also aged just 13 and 14 were also killed in the crash.

New information has come to light concerning this incident and suggestions have been made that the pilot made an error by choosing to continue the journey in inclement weather. This news comes just a few weeks after Kobe's wife Vanessa Bryant, shared a heart-breaking letter one year on after her husband and daughter’s death.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a statement that read, "The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's decision to continue flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions which resulted in the pilot spatial disorientation and loss of control."

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It was revealed that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, informed air traffic control that he was climbing up out of the heavy cloud when in fact he was lowering the aircraft. 

Robert Sumwalt, the chairman of the US NTSB said on Tuesday that, “This maneuver is consistent with the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation in limited visibility conditions." 

Spatial disorientation is described as a condition that can affect pilots' ability to locate their craft in relation to the Earth and altitude. One investigator described the condition simply by saying, “The pilot doesn’t know which way is up.”

It has also been revealed through this investigation that it is unlikely that Kobe urged the pilot to fly in inclement weather. The NTSB said, “There was no evidence that Island Express, the air charter broker or the client [Kobe Bryant] placed pressure on the pilot to accept the charter flight request or complete the flight and adverse weather."

However, the NTSB did suggest that the relationship between Kobe and the pilot may have influenced the pilot’s decision to continue the flight when there were opportunities to stop the flight before the crash.

Kobe and the pilot had a long-standing professional relationship and members of Kobe’s family had flown with the pilot, even when the star was not present. Investigators suggest, "This type of relationship that he had with the client can lead to self-induced pressure during the en-route portion of the flight." 

The NTSB has also described a “continuation bias” that might have been felt by the pilot at this time. This continuation bias is described as “the desire to reach your destination once the journey has begun.”

Investigators have also refused to suggest that the aircraft operator, Island Express, could be implicated in this investigation. They state, “We see crashes with other carriers that don't particularly indicate they're unsafe, but they've had a gap or a flaw or didn't know any better, but that doesn't make them a problem operator. They just need to do some things differently."

The helicopter was not carrying a black box recorder, nor was it required to carry one. So it is likely that these suggestions from the NTSB are the most concrete answers that can be revealed about the crash.