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Kobe Bryant helicopter audio released

Larry Brown Sports logo Larry Brown Sports 1/27/2020 Steve DelVecchio, Larry Brown Sports
a group of people standing around a table © Sandy Hooper-USA TODAY via Imagn

Audio has been released from the minutes leading up to the helicopter crash that claimed the life of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people on Sunday morning.

Conversations between the pilot of the helicopter and air traffic controllers indicate the chopper was flying under special VFR, or special visual flight rules. Those rules allow helicopters to fly in conditions where visibility is an issue, which appears to have been the case with the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas. Just before the crash, an air traffic controller could be heard telling the helicopter’s pilot that he was “still too low level for flight following,” which indicated the chopper was flying too low to be picked up by radar because of the hilly terrain in the area.

Here is the audio (Warning: This video may be disturbing to some users.)

Replay Video

A person familiar with the early portion of an investigation into the crash told ESPN’s Paula Lavigne that the pilot of the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter told air traffic controllers he was going to climb to “go above the layer” of clouds. The pilot was receiving guidance from air traffic controllers as he navigated through dense fog. Witnesses who heard the crash said it was very foggy in the area at the time.

Helicopters are allowed to fly in worse visibility than airplanes, but Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Josh Rubenstein said the department’s helicopters were grounded on Sunday morning due to the dense fog.

“The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” Rubenstein said.

A full investigation into the cause of the crash could take a year or more, though ESPN noted that the National Transportation Safety Board typically issues a preliminary report within 10 days.

The crash that claimed Kobe’s and his daughter’s life has understandably rocked the sports world, but our thoughts should be with the seven other victims as well. The tragedy truly is unthinkable.

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