BODIES RETRIEVED FROM KOBE BRYANT’S HELICOPTER CRASH SITE

BODIES RETRIEVED FROM KOBE BRYANT’S HELICOPTER CRASH SITE

Coroner’s investigators said they had recovered three bodies from the crash site of Kobe Bryant’s crashed helicopter and were searching for more remains.

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said in a statement posted to its website that three bodies had been recovered from the debris field and taken to a forensic science centre for identification.

“Today, the search continues in the Calabasas mountainside for the other occupants in the fatal helicopter crash,” the coroner’s office said.

Bryant, who won five NBA in his 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, was known since his playing days to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid the Los Angeles area’s glacial traffic.

The NBA cancelled a game scheduled for Staples Centre on Tuesday between the Lakers and their cross-town rivals the Clippers.

“The decision was made out of respect for the Lakers organisation, which is deeply grieving the tragic loss of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash on Sunday,” the NBA said.

In addition to the Bryants, the crash devastated three other families linked to the Mamba Sports Academy on their way to a girls’ basketball tournament: a husband and wife with their 13-year-old daughter; a mother and her 13-year-old daughter; and a basketball coach who was also a mom.

The ninth victim was the pilot, Ara Zobayan, an experienced former flight instructor who was instrument-rated, or qualified to fly in fog, according to multiple US media accounts.

Witnesses recounted thick fog over the foothills where the helicopter went down. The fog was so bad that both the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department grounded their helicopter fleets, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing officials.

Air traffic controllers gave the pilot “Special Visual Flight Rules,” or clearance to fly in less than optimal weather around the Burbank airport.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official noted a pilot “does not get a general, or blanket, clearance from the FAA to fly in these conditions. A pilot is responsible for determining whether it is safe to fly in current and expected conditions.”

Moreover, the pilot apparently requested “flight following,” or constant tracking from controllers, but was informed he was flying too low to be picked up by air traffic control radar.

It is unclear if the pilot heard the comment as it comes near the end of the doomed flight.

“Two echo x-ray, you’re still too low level for flight following at this time,” an air traffic controller told the pilot, according to publicly available audio of the conversation that was posted by several aviation websites.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. A team of NTSB investigators were at the site on Monday going through the wreckage.

It is expected to be on site for a few more days, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said. The agency plans a news conference at 4 pm PST (0000 GMT).

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