Kobe Bryant Helicopter Didn’t Have Critical Safety System, Officials Say

January 29, 2020 Updated: January 29, 2020
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The doomed helicopter carrying former NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter didn’t have a critical warning system when it slammed into a hillside in Southern California, killing them and seven other people on Sunday, according to U.S. officials.

The Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) was not installed on the helicopter, which could possibly give the pilot time to make a correction, according to one official.

“Certainly, TAWS could have helped to provide information to the pilot on what terrain the pilot was flying in,” Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSA) told The New York Times. She said the helicopter missed a hill by around 30 feet.

“We know that this was a high-energy impact crash, and the helicopter was in a descending left bank,” Homendy told Fox News.

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Smoke rises amid foggy weather from the site of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others, along a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., on Jan. 26, 2020, in this photo obtained via social media. (INSTAGRAM/@PRINCESSOFCALABASAS via Reuters)

Homendy said it was too soon to say whether the pilot had control of the helicopter during its descent, while Bill English, the head of NTSB’s Major Investigations Division, said it was not clear if “TAWS and this scenario are related to each other,” according to the New York Post.

The helicopter that crashed Sunday, a Sikorsky S-76B, also didn’t have a black box containing a voice recorder and a flight data recorder.

“That would have helped us significantly in this investigation and other investigations, and it’s something we’ve recommended several times over a number of years,” Honmedy told the NY Times.

Radar indicated the helicopter reached a height of 2,300-feet Sunday morning before descending, and the wreckage was found at 1,085-feet above sea level, she said, according to The Associated Press. NTSB investigators were deployed to the crash site on Monday to collect evidence.

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Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev., on July 27, 2019. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

“The debris field is pretty extensive,” Homendy said. “A piece of the tail is down the hill,” she said. “The fuselage is on the other side of that hill. And then the main rotor is about 100 yards beyond that.”

There has been speculation that poor conditions, including fog, played a role in the accident, but Honmedy said an investigation will determine the cause of the crash.

“We look at man, machine and the environment,” she said. “And weather is just a small portion of that.”

On Sunday, the City of Calabasas and later NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Bryant and his daughter died in the crash, prompting an outpouring of support from sports figures, world leaders, and celebrities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.