An alarming audio message and the "disorientation" of the pilot: the first clues surrounding the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant

Two days after the disaster, the first clues to surface from the investigation into the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash have been revealed in dribs and drabs by the American authorities. Poor weather conditions are still at the heart of the possible causes.

Helicopter crash site
© Getty Images
Helicopter crash site

The sports world is still in shock following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and eight others, including his daughter Gianna, in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday 26 January. Meanwhile, the US media revealed the first clues to come out of the investigation into the disaster.

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Weather conditions are still at the heart of the investigation

Under pressure to quickly explain the cause of the crash of the aircraft, the main lead of for the investigation is the weather conditions that were experienced during the flight. They remain a key element for the 18 investigators designated by the NTSB, the American agency in charge of transport safety.

Especially since "the probability of a serious failure of the two engines of this machine is almost nil," Kurt Deetz, a former pilot of the company Island Express who had transported the champion on several occasions, told the Los Angeles Times.

As early as Monday, CNN stated that the helicopter had special authorization allowing it to fly in spite of these difficult weather conditions, specifying that in passing that the pilot had requested a "flight follow up", a device allowing a continuous link between the pilot and the control tower for safety reasons.

No black box from the helicopter

Regarding the progress of the investigation at the accident site, Jennifer Homendy of the NTSB detailed in a news briefing that the crash was "a really terrible accident scene" and "debris was scattered over about 180 metres".

"We will be there, about five days on-site, to collect perishable evidence," she explained, taking care to point out that the aircraft was not equipped with a black box, and that the device had not been considered necessary on this type of helicopter.

One last alarming audio message

According to a recording that was revealed on Tuesday by the Live ATC site, an air traffic control monitoring site, the helicopter was flying at too low an altitude and in the wrong direction. In this audio, which you can listen to at the top of the article, the air traffic controller asks the pilot why he is climbing north, the wrong direction to reach his destination.

The pilot then requested clearance to change course to the southwest, before not responding for about 20 seconds. The control tower then warns the pilot: "You are flying too low for us to continue to follow you". No response, and the end of the recording.

The pilot suffering from "spatial disorientation"?

While bad weather forced Los Angeles police to leave their helicopters on the ground until the early afternoon on Sunday, Philippe Lesourd, a helicopter pilot and instructor who has been flying in California for 29 years, told AFP that the helicopter pilot most likely suffered from "spatial disorientation" after losing sight of the ground as he entered the clouds.

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