Air crash investigators attend Kobe Bryant helicopter wreckage

Basketball superstar and daughter among nine killed in tragic crash involving Sikorsky S-76B helicopter
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Kobe Bryant, 41, was among nine people killed when a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter crashed in Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant, 41, was among nine people killed when a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter crashed in Los Angeles.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating a helicopter crash which resulted in the death of basketball great Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others.

The Sikorsky S-76B came down over mountainous terrain in Los Angeles, US, on Sunday. The cause of the crash is unknown and experts have said it is too early to draw conclusions.

The twin-engine S-76B is widely used by VIPs around the world and is known as a reliable workhorse with a strong safety record. Bryant frequently used helicopters to travel and used them to commute to games during his career.

Owned by Island Express Holding Corp, the VIP helicopter appeared to descend rapidly – at a rate of 4,200 feet per minute – about 40 minutes into its flight, according to data from Flightradar24.

Flightradar24 data shows route of Kobe Bryant's helicopter prior to crash

Flightradar24 data shows route of Kobe Bryant's helicopter prior to crash

A former air crash investigator with the NTSB and FAA told Forbes that the rate of descent suggests that the aircraft was either “out of control” or the pilot “is extremely eager to get it on the ground”.

But Alan Diehl said that it was too early to draw conclusions.

Other aviation experts have said that the wreckage pattern suggests that the aircraft endured an extremely hard impact and have speculated that the pilot may have been up against challenging conditions.

Weather reports suggest poor visibility in the area at the time of the crash. Fog and low cloud can make mountain flying even more challenging than it already is, experts said.

Diehl said that the investigation may prove difficult because of the highly flammable nature of helicopters and their magnesium components, which may have caused evidence to be damaged or destroyed. Eyewitnesses “may be critical” in the investigation, he said.

Island Express Holding Corp registered Bryant’s helicopter in 2015 after it was sold by the state of Illinois, according to helis.com. The helicopter was manufactured in 1991.

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