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Bryant and his family

A Sunday Trip Turns Tragic

On Sunday January 26, 2020 at approximately 9:00 am PST there was very dense fog in the air in Orange County, CA. Because of these weather conditions, the Los Angeles Police Department grounded all aircrafts until the afternoon. Retired NBA player, Kobe Bryant and eight others, including his 13- year-old daughter, Gianna, took off in Bryant’s private helicopter, Sikorsky S-76B, from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. The group of nine were on their way to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, CA for a basketball tournament, but did not reach their destination. 


Since this aircraft was privately owned, the pilot did not have to obey the orders made by the LAPD. The pilot was apparently given special clearance to operate the aircraft under special visual flight rules in the weather conditions that morning.The Federal Aviation Association made a statement Tuesday after the crash, saying that the helicopter was not equipped with a security system that the that the FAA refused to make mandatory over the objections of the National Transportation Safety Board. They used drones to map the crash. It was said that the recovery effort took time because debris was spread about 600 feet over rugged hillside terrain after the helicopter crashed. The helicopter also did not have terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) which warns pilots when an aircraft gets too close to terrain. 


The National Transportation Safety Board said it was previously recommended that the FAA should require the helicopter be equipped with a TAWS system, but the agency declined, according to Jennifer Homendy, a member of the NTSB. The system has saved countless lives. "Certainly, TAWS could have helped," Homendy said, but said she couldn't confirm that the crash could have prevented the crash entirely. The aircraft also did not have a black box recording system, which isn't required. Homendy also called this incident a "high-energy impact crash” the aircraft lost communications with air traffic controllers at an altitude of 2,300 feet. It dived at a rate of more than 2,000 feet a minute. 


According to The New York Times, Bryant was drafted into the N.B.A. directly out of high school in 1996 and was named an All-Star in 18 of his 20 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers and helped lead the team to five championships. He was also the winner of the N.B.A. 's Most Valuable Player Award for the 2007 and 2008 season. He was also the N.B.A. finals M.V.P. in both 2009 and 2010. He also had an 81-point game in 2006, the second-highest single-game total in N.B.A. history along with 12 appearances on the league’s All-Defense team. Bryant also won gold medals for the U.S.A. Basketball in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. 


In retirement, Bryant became something of a champion for women’s sports and expanded his purview, winning an Academy Award in 2018 for his animated short film, Dear Basketball, while also creating the web series, Detail, for ESPN in which he analyzed current players. “My heart can take the pounding / My mind can handle the grind / But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye,” Bryant wrote in Dear Basketball, the poem that he wrote to announce his retirement that was the basis for the short film.