NBA, LA Lakers Legend Kobe Bryant Dead In Helicopter Crash
National Basketball Association legend and retired Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was among five killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning near the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. According to multiple sources who were mountain biking in the vicinity of the crash site, the helicopter’s engine was heard to be “sputtering” seconds before the aircraft crashed into a hillside in rugged terrain. At the time of the crash, the crash site was obscured by fog although early indications suggest that weather was not a factor in the accident.
The helicopter was reported to be a 1991 Sikorsky S-76B, a model that is popular with both private owners as well as commercial operators. The S-76B is reported to have an excellent safety record with 500+ models currently in active use. Published reports state that Bryant made extensive use of his privately-owned aircraft to commute between his home and various business and entertainment venues.
Although it is too early to expect more than eyewitness and crash scene reports, the available information suggests that engine failure was probably responsible for the crash and that weather played no role in the accident. This, of course, raises the possibility that improper engine maintenance or failure to comply with FAA rules regarding helicopter powerplant and airframe inspection could have been a factor in the accident.
FAA regulations require that all aircraft, including helicopters. undergo both comprehensive annual inspections as well as inspections after each 100 hours of actual flight time. During these inspections, any problems that may be encountered are repaired, any FAA-required maintenance is performed, and aircraft parts are replaced according to each component’s manufacturer’s guidelines. Failure to perform required maintenance is the most common cause of inflight helicopter engine failure. Other factors that are frequently cited in helicopter accidents include:
Poor weather conditions are noted in many helicopter accidents, whether the pilot took off during such conditions or if adverse weather developed during flight. Poor flying conditions should prevent a pilot from commencing a flight or prompt a landing or a return to base if weather conditions worsen during flight.
Many helicopter fuel gauges do not indicate the exact amount of fuel remaining. This is sometimes a factor when a helicopter loses power when approaching its destination after a pilot tries to “push on” based on inaccurate information regarding the amount of fuel remaining onboard.
Flight into terrain
Controlled flight into terrain usually occurs at night or during poor weather conditions. Frequently, the pilot is flying into an unfamiliar destination or has accidentally drifted from his or her planned flight path. In any case, flight into terrain is usually seen as an example of “pilot error” as mentioned below.
Although there are many possible causes of helicopter crashes, pilot error is by far the most frequently cited and may be a factor in the causes listed above. The possibility of pilot error decreases with the number of flight hours accumulated by a pilot but has been noted among pilots of all experience levels.
Once again, we point out that it is far too early to have an exact cause of this accident. Any of the above factors could be seen as evidence of negligence on the part of a helicopter pilot and, by extension, the pilot’s employer. However, the information available suggests that an inflight engine failure was the immediate cause of this accident.
At The Doan Law Firm, we will be monitoring the news media for future developments in this accident and will provide updates as they become available.