Almost two weeks after Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other victims died in a private helicopter crash, the Los Angeles county fire dispatchers have released five 911 calls, where witnesses described the scene in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, January 26.
The first call came from a man who reported a fire — “flames and smoke” — half a mile from Las Virgenes Road and A.E. Wright Middle School, according to recordings obtained by KTLA. “We’re on our way up now,” the dispatcher replied. The same guy called back later as he wanted to clarify the exact location where the aircraft went down.
Another man was on a hike when he described the accident to officials. “I’m walking on a trail, and I could hear this plane, as if it was in the clouds but couldn’t see it,” he said. “Then we just heard a boom and a dead sound, and I could see the flames.” He also noted he thought the fire was due to a “small plane.”
The third call came from a man at the Erewhon Market on Agoura Road in Calabasas, where he told authorities “a helicopter crashed into a mountain. I heard it, and now I’m looking at the flames.”
Lastly, a fourth caller noted the helicopter “went over my head” and was “thick in clouds.” He added, “And then I heard a pop, and it immediately stopped.” Many eyewitnesses described the fog in the sky as they could hear the aircraft but could barely see it before it crashed. “If this guy doesn’t have night vision, I mean, he was, he’s completely IFR,” he said, referring to instrument flight rules, which are vital for safely flying an aircraft.
In addition to Bryant, 41, and Gianna, 13, Payton Chester, 13, Alyssa Altobelli, 14, Keri Altobelli, 36, John Altobelli, 57, Christina Mauser, 38, Sarah Chester, 46, and Ara Zobayan, 50, all passed away after the collision.
The nine victims were traveling from Orange County to Thousand Oaks for basketball practice at Bryant’s Mamba Academy, but they didn’t make it to their final destination. Now, investigators are trying to figure out if weather played a part. “We know the helicopter was at 2,300 feet before it lost communication with Air Traffic control,” NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy said in a press conference on January 28. “The descent rate of the helicopter was over 2,000 feet per minute. So, we know this was a high energy impact crash.”
On January 31, the Los Angeles Lakers played for the first time since Bryant’s death where LeBron James and others spoke about the legendary basketball player. Later on, Vanessa, 37, shared a photo of her husband’s jersey along with Gianna’s on Instagram. “There is no #24 without #2,” she wrote. “#GirlDaddy #DaddysGirl #MyBabies #OurAngels #KobeandGigi.”
We are thinking of everyone during this tough time.
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