Kobe Bryant crash: All eyes on Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky S-76B

Kobe Bryant

CALABASAS (KRON) – The world continues to mourn the loss of a legend.

Kobe Bryant and 8 other people, including one of his teenage daughters – 13-year-old Gianna – were killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday.

The group was en route to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball tournament.

Their chopper – a Sikorsky S-76B – crashed roughly 30 miles outside of downtown Los Angeles.

There were no survivors.

The maker of the helicopter, Sikorsy – which is a division of Lockheed Martin – issued a statement late Sunday vowing to investigate the deadly crash.

“We extend our sincerest condolences to all those affected by today’s Sikorsky S-76B accident in Calabasas, California,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement on social media. “We have been in contact with the NTSB and stand ready to provide assistance and support to the investigative authorities and our customer.”

The company added, “Safety is our top priority; if there are any actionable findings from the investigation, we will inform our S-76 customers.”

At this authorities are investigating whether foggy conditions played a role in the cause of the deadly crash.

Officials said the conditions were considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their own choppers.

Kurt Deetz, a pilot who used to fly Bryant in the chopper, said the crash was more likely caused by bad weather than engine or mechanical issues.

Justin Green, an aviation attorney in New York who flew helicopters in the Marine Corps, said pilots can become disoriented in low visibility, losing track of which direction is up.

Green said a pilot flying an S-76 would be instrument-rated, meaning that person could fly the helicopter without relying on visual cues from outside.

The S-76 series helicopter was “originally built for the rigorous demands of the offs​hore oil & gas” industries,” but “its capabilities fit naturally into other market segments,” including executive transportation and emergency services, Lockheed Martin says on its website.

The S-76 was first introduced in 1977.

CNN reports the helicopter in which Bryant and the 8 other passengers crashed was built in 1991.

This was not Bryant’s first time on a helicopter.

During his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant frequently traveled via helicopter from his home in Orange County to Lakers games at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to avoid traffic and also put less stress on his body.

In an interview for GQ magazine in 2010, J.R. Moehringer, who was writing a profile on Bryant at the time, wrote the NBA legend “can’t sit in a car for two hours.”

“It’s a nice dash of glitz, a touch of showbiz that goes well with the Hollywood sign in the hazy distance. But sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It’s no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can’t sit in a car for two hours. The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court,” Mohehringer wrote.

The National Transportation Safety Board usually issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned.

A ruling on the cause can take a year or more.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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