Federal investigators appear to have ruled out engine failure as a possible cause of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven others. The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report Friday that evidence suggests the engines were operating and the rotors still spinning when the helicopter crashed.
A witness on a mountain bike trail just 50 feet above the crash site told the NTSB he saw the helicopter emerge from the clouds. It was “moving fast” and descending. It rolled to the left, and he caught a glimpse of its belly moments before the crash.
“Preliminary information is that the helicopter was in one piece when it impacted the terrain,” said Jennifer Homendy of the NTSB last week.
A doorbell camera captured the sound of the chopper flying overhead just before the crash. At about the same moment, a newly released image from a security camera was taken. It is now the last known picture of the helicopter as it disappeared into clouds about two miles from the crash site.
The NTSB said the pilot told air traffic controllers he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above the clouds. He made it about 2,300 feet and began to turn. Eight seconds later, the helicopter began to descend, then plummet.
The report was released the same day that Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, announced that there will be a public celebration of life on February 24. The service will take place at the Staples Center, home to the Los Angeles Lakers. In the aftermath of the crash, fans have been leaving flowers, notes and basketballs there in honor of Bryant and his daughter.