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The radio traffic audio indicates Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the crashed helicopter in which Kobe Bryant and eight others died, tried to remain below clouds in order to remain in visual contact with the ground and avoid flying on instruments, said Gary Robb, an aviation lawyer and author of the book Helicopter Crash Litigation. 

Robb said it was “certainly possible” that the pilot was “flying so low to get under the cloud cover that he clipped the top of that mountain that extended into the clouds.”

 “The dialogue between the pilot and air traffic control leads me to believe … he kept wanting to go lower and lower, beneath the fog and ceiling, as we call it, and that could have led him to fly so low that he flew into the mountain,” Robb said.

The pilot, in his transmissions, “was calm and controlled the whole time,” Robb said, calling the communications “extremely normal and routine.”

Investigators also would have to consider mechanical failure, Robb said, though he described the Sikorsky twin-engine turbo helicopter as a “reliable” and “generally safe” aircraft.


The mourning continued a day after Bryant’s death. After Lakers fans spontaneously built a shrine to Bryant near the Staples Centre where he played his home games, fans laid down flowers and Bryant jerseys at Lower Merion High School outside Philadelphia, where Bryant played before joining the NBA.

A tribute to Kobe Bryant is seen on the outside walls of the United Center in Chicago on Jan 27, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

In Hollywood, A-list stars including Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt took part in a moment of silence to honour Bryant at the start of the annual Academy Award nominees luncheon.

Bryant, an Oscar winner for the animated short film ‘Dear Basketball,’ attended the lunch two years ago.

In New York, early morning commuters emerging from Penn Station stopped for a silent moment before an enormous electronic billboard lit up with Bryant’s image outside Madison Square Garden.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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