Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant died on Sunday morning when his private helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California. The chopper reportedly caught fire and collided with a hillside, killing all nine people on board, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are said to be currently investigating the cause of the crash, which is currently unknown and might take up to a year to figure out.
TMZ reports that police sources and flight tracker data further suggest that heavy fog could have played a role in the crash:
“L.A. weather was extremely foggy Sunday morning, and law enforcement sources tell us even LAPD air support was grounded because of it. Flight tracker data shows Kobe’s chopper appeared to first encounter weather issues as it was above the L.A. Zoo. It circled that area at least 6 times at a very low altitude—around 875 feet—perhaps waiting for the fog to clear. We know the pilot contacted the control tower at Burbank Airport around 9:30 AM PT, and the tower was aware the pilot had been circling for about 15 minutes. The pilot eventually headed north along the 118 freeway before turning to the west, and started following above the 101 freeway around Woodland Hills, CA. At around 9:40 AM they encounter more weather—as in seriously heavy fog—and the chopper turned south. This was critical, because they turned toward a mountainous area. The pilot suddenly and rapidly climbed from about 1200 feet up to 2000 feet. However, moments later—around 9:45 AM—they flew into a mountain at 1700 feet. Flight tracker data shows they were flying at about 161 knots.”
Audio records released on Monday included communications between the helicopter’s pilot and and air traffic control at Burbank Airport.
Before losing radio contact, the pilot asked for “flight following” for the controllers to track the flight and stay in contact. You can see the helicopter disappear from the radar that signaled they had just crashed.