By Frank Kamuntu
The retired National Basket Ball Association (NBA) star Kobe Bryant, 41, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter to his youth basketball academy when they and seven other people perished in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif, on Sunday, after he had been given special approval to fly around Burbank in foggy weather.
It’s revealed that the pilot said just before the crash that he was trying to gain altitude before air traffic controllers lost track of the helicopter that was carrying nine people, including Kobe Bryant.
The pilot who was at the controls said that he was trying to fly higher to avoid a cloud layer, sources revealed.
The National Transportation Safety Board said there was no response from the pilot after controllers asked for more information, and radar suggested that the helicopter ascended to 2,300 feet and began a descending turn to the left.
Although investigators are scrutinizing weather conditions at the time of the crash — part of Southern California was shrouded in fog on Sunday morning — they are also examining the possibility that other issues played a role in the crash.
“We take a broad look at everything around an investigation, around an accident,” Jennifer Homendy, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board said at a news conference in California.
She added that they look at man, machine and the environment, and weather is just a small portion of that which could not be seen.
The helicopter did not carry a cockpit voice recorder, and investigators are spending their days searching a debris field of about 500 to 600 feet, trying to recover perishable evidence. Federal officials are not expected to reach a conclusion about the cause of the accident for months.
The N.B.A. announced that the Lakers-Clippers game scheduled for today Tuesday night had been postponed, as players and others throughout basketball grieved the death of Bryant, a star with the Lakers for two decades.
In a statement, the league said the game had been postponed to a later date, which was not immediately announced, “out of respect for the Lakers organization.”
Soon after the league’s announcement, the Lakers expressed gratitude for the public outpouring of support.
“This is a very difficult time for all of us,” the team said in a statement.
The Lakers last played Saturday, when they lost at Philadelphia, and were traveling back to California when word of the helicopter crash that took Bryant’s life emerged. Staples Center, where both the Lakers and Clippers play their home games, has been the site of impromptu gatherings and tributes since Bryant’s death.
When the helicopter carrying Bryant departed from Orange County on Sunday morning, visibility had been fine.
But less than an hour later, as the aircraft circled over Griffith Park in Los Angeles awaiting clearance from air traffic controllers, it was mired in a thick fog. Drivers on the freeway could barely see the hillsides. The Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its fleet of helicopters.
Bryant was a key ambassador for basketball beyond America’s borders.
As the N.B.A.’s power and prominence grew overseas, few men were more crucial to the effort than Bryant.
He spoke Italian. He was the greatest star of one of his sport’s greatest teams. He had a deal with Nike, which helped him become one of the most recognizable figures in China, where the N.B.A. proved especially popular.
He was, perhaps more than any other player of his generation; basketball’s ambassador and its image to the world beyond America’s borders.