U.S. safety investigators announced that the pilot of Kobe Bryant's helicopter flew through clouds in an apparent violation of federal standards, likely becoming disoriented before the helicopter crashed.
Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that Ara Zobayan was flying under visual flight rules and needed to be able to see where he was going, but Zobayan piloted the aircraft to climb sharply and nearly broke through the clouds when the helicopter banked abruptly and plunged into the hills below, killing all aboard.
The helicopter did not have a "black box" recording device.
Vanessa Bryaant, blamed the pilot, as did relatives of the other victims who also faulted the companies that owned and operated the helicopter. The companies said foggy weather before the helicopter hit the ground was an act of God and blamed air traffic controllers.
The federal hearing focused on the probable cause of the tragedy that launched several lawsuits and prompted state and federal legislation.
The board is likely to make nonbinding recommendations to prevent future crashes. One possible recommendation could be for helicopters to have terrain awareness and warning systems, devices that signal when aircraft are in danger of crashing.
The helicopter Bryant was flying in did not have the system, which the NTSB has recommended as mandatory for helicopters.
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