The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, 8 others didn't have recommended warning system, NTSB says

NTSB investigators examine Kobe Bryant crash site
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/CBS News)

The chartered Sikorsky S-76B helicopter that crashed Sunday, killing Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people it was ferrying across Los Angeles, did not have a recommended warning system designed to alert the pilot the aircraft was too close to the ground, National Transportation Safety Board officials said late Tuesday. The helicopter, flown by experienced pilot Ara Zobayan, crashed into the side of a hill in Calabasas soon after Zobayan told flight controllers he was flying higher to get above thick clouds.

"This is a pretty steep descent at high speed," said the NTSB's Jennifer Homendy. "We know that this was a high-energy impact crash." The NTSB did not fault Zobayan or question his decision to continue flying in thick fog, though some other pilots did, and it's not clear a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) would have prevented the crash. Zobayan, 50, had flown the same Orange County to Ventura County route numerous times, including on Saturday, though the fog compelled him to veer from his normal route.

By the end of Tuesday, the bodies of all nine victims and the wreckage of the helicopter had been recovered, and Bryant, Zobayan, John Altobelli, and Sarah Chester had been identified via fingerprints. Along with Bryant, Altobelli, and Chester, the helicopter's passengers were 13-year-old Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, and Christina Mauser.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The NTSB had recommended that all helicopters be equipped with TAWS after a Sikorsky S-76A crashed into the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston in 2004, killing all 10 people on board, but the Federal Aviation Administration decided after 10 years to only require the warning systems on air ambulances. "The NTSB said FAA's response was unacceptable, but dropped the matter," The Associated Press reports.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.