Kobe Bryant’s Death in a Helicopter Accident Is Only the Latest Aviation Death to Stun the Sports Community

The 2020 Grammy Awards were a little more somber than expected. With news spreading quickly that basketball star, Kobe Bryant, died in a helicopter accident just 35 miles from the Staples Center, greats from across the music world have chosen to pay tribute to the fallen basketball hero and his young daughter, Gianna, who also reportedly perished in the crash. Kobe, who regularly flew in helicopters during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, is not the first star to die in a horrific aviation accident.

Little is known about the crash that took the lives of 9 people

Details of the crash that took the life of Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people are still developing. According to ESPN, Bryant was flying to a basketball game scheduled at Mamba Sports Academy early on Jan. 26, when the chopper encountered problems. Adverse weather conditions are believed to have played a role in the crash.

Kobe Bryant Tribute is seen on January 26, 2020
Kobe Bryant Tribute| SMXRF/Star Max/GC Images

According to The Weather Channel, the helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport at 9:06 am California time. Visibility was reportedly low due to fog, and it is believed the pilot of the copter circled an area around the zoo for about 15 minutes before heading towards the 101 freeway. CNN has reported that the helicopter attempted to climb to about 2000 feet when it found itself in a mountainous area. The aircraft crashed in the hills shortly after.

Officials have not released the names of those killed in the crash, although it is believed that a college baseball coach, along with his wife and daughter, were among the victims. It has been reported that the child was also enrolled at Mamba Sports Academy, Gianna was a student at the academy. The names of the victims will not be released until the next of kin has been notified.

Several other notable sports stars have died in aviation accidents

Bryant is the latest sports great to die in an aviation accident, but the sports world has had more than a few air tragedies. In 2017, Roy Halladay was piloting an amphibious aircraft when he crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. Halladay, who pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies, was the lone occupant in the aircraft at the time of the crash.

An investigation followed, noting that Halladay never sent a mayday call to air traffic control. It was later revealed that Halladay was profoundly impaired at the time of the crash. According to USA Today, Halladay had morphine and amphetamine in his system at the time of the crash. Evidence of Ambien usage in the hours before the crash was also found during a toxicology screening.

Cory Lidle #30 of the New York Yankees is seen on the field against the Detroit Tigers during Game Four of the 2006 American League Division Series on October 7, 2006
Cory Lidle #30 of the New York Yankees | Elsa/Getty Images

In 2006, Yankees’ pitcher, Cory Lidle, was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed into a Manhattan apartment building. According to CNN, the plane crashed just 12 minutes after taking off from Teterboro. The weather was believed to be a factor in the crash, the NTSB determined that a weather front may have pushed the small aircraft into the building as it was attempting to navigate a turn. Lidle and the flight instructor he was working with were both killed. 26 people in the area of the crash were injured.

Public figures have also died in helicopter crashes recently

Lidle and Halladay both died in aviation accidents, but the MLB isn’t the only sport that has experienced aviation tragedies. NASCAR driver, Davey Allison, was killed in 1993 in a helicopter crash. The crash occurred at Talladega Superspeedway. Allison was piloting the aircraft, according to the Washington Post.

Stevie Ray Vaughan performing at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco
Stevie Ray Vaughan| Clayton Call/Redferns

Troy Gentry, died in September 2017 when his helicopter crashed in Medford, New Jersey. Gentry, who was part of the country music duo, Montgomery Gentry, was a passenger in the aircraft that was on a sightseeing tour. Singer and songwriter Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash, as well. Vaughan, along with several members of Eric Clapton’s entourage took off from Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin. Headed for Midway International Airport, the helicopter crashed into a hill. Foggy conditions are believed to have factored into the crash.