The Los Angeles County coroner has issued a report that narrows the possible cause of the helicopter crash that killed retired NBA star Kobe Bryant, one of his daughters, and seven other people earlier this year.
Autopsy reports released in helicopter crash case
The pilot flying the helicopter with former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and seven other passengers aboard did not have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the fatal Jan. 26 crash in California, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office disclosed.
The ruling of accidental death for those aboard helps the National Transportation Safety Board investigators narrow the cause of the crash, which killed nine people in fog in the San Fernando Valley. The NTSB has not yet released its final report but said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, The Associated Press reported.
The determinations thus far have not ruled out pilot error on the part of Ara Zobayan as being a potential factor in the tragedy. Zobayan frequently flew Bryant, who was traveling that day with daughter Gianna Bryant and six others to a youth basketball tournament.
Coroner reports that Kobe Bryant’s body was unrecognizable
The Los Angeles County coroner’s report concluded that Kobe Bryant and the others aboard the helicopter died from blunt trauma. “These injuries are rapidly if not instantly fatal,” senior deputy medical examiner Juan Carrillo wrote on the report for Bryant, who was 41.
The report said Bryant’s body was unrecognizable and that he was identified with the help of “multicolored court shoes” he was known to be wearing as well as a tattoo of a crown on his right shoulder above the name of his wife, Vanessa. His lower right arm was tattooed with the names of the retired player’s three oldest daughters, including 13-year-old Gianna, who also perished in the crash.
Debris from the crash was scattered over an area approximately the size of a football field. Kobe Bryant’s body was found on one side of the wreckage, and his daughter’s was located in a ravine on the opposite side. Burns on the victims’ bodies were determined to have been postmortem.
The coroner report showed Kobe Bryant’s system contained methylphenidate, commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.
What’s next in the investigation?
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation is in progress. A final report might not be available until early next year, but FAA records indicate the helicopter did not have a terrain awareness and warning system, a device that alerts the flight crew when an aircraft is in danger of hitting ground but is not mandatory in the type of aircraft being flown that day.
Vanessa Bryant has filed a lawsuit in the death of her husband and daughter. The suit alleges that pilot Ara Zobayan was careless and negligent to fly in the fog.
Berge Zobayan, the pilot’s brother, argued in a court filing that the passengers knew the risks of helicopter flying and that their survivors are not entitled to damages from the pilot’s estate, the AP report said.