What Caused Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Crash?

The sports and entertainment world is mourning the loss of NBA great Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26. He had been traveling with eight others when the aircraft smashed into a hillside and sparked a fire. All nine of them died at the scene.

Investigators have launched a probe to discover the cause of the accident, but details are already starting to emerge. Let’s talk about what might have caused Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash below.

Kobe Bryant at a game in 2009
Kobe Bryant at a game in 2009 | Harry How/Getty Images

The helicopter was traveling in foggy weather conditions

According to CBS News, visibility was so poor that the Los Angeles Police Department grounded their choppers for the day.

“The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” a spokesperson for the department told the news outlet.

The helicopter reportedly took off from Orange County, south of Los Angeles, around 9 a.m. PT. According to TMZ, the aircraft seemed to experience “weather issues” shortly after takeoff and circled an area around the Los Angeles Zoo six times, apparently waiting for conditions to improve.

Eventually, the helicopter began traveling north. But when it reportedly encountered more fog, it turned south toward a hilly area and crashed in Calabasas, California just before 10 a.m. PT.

Witnesses talk about the crash

A man named Jerry Kocharian told The Los Angeles Times that he was outside when he witnessed a helicopter “flying unusually low and struggling.”

“It [didn’t] sound right and it was real low. I saw it falling and sputtering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy,” he explained. Kocharian said the helicopter fell out of sight and then he heard a boom.

“There was a big fireball,” he continued. “No one could survive that.”

Calabasas resident Colin Storm said he was in his living room when he heard the collision.

“It was very foggy, so we couldn’t see anything,” he told ESPN. “But then we heard some sputtering and then a boom.”

Sources suggested to The Los Angeles Times that the crash might have been the result of mechanical problems. But a pilot told the outlet it likely stemmed from poor weather conditions. “The likelihood of a catastrophic twin-engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen,” the pilot said.

As of writing, investigators are still looking into the accident and have not yet announced the official cause of it.

Who were the other victims?

Bryant, 41, died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, an aspiring professional basketball player. The two had reportedly been on their way to Thousands Oaks, California for a basketball tournament at Mamba Academy on Sunday. Gianna was allegedly supposed to play in the game and Bryant was slated to coach it.

Other victims include basketball coach Christina Mauser, pilot Ara Zobayan, mother-and-daughter Sarah and Payton Chester, as well as college baseball coach John Altobelli, his daughter Alyssa Altobelli and wife Keri Altobelli.

Many people have taken to social media to mourn the loss of Bryant — who played with the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire 20-season career — and the other victims.

Hugh Jackman wrote on Twitter that he was “so deeply saddened by this tragedy and send my love and prayers to all the families.

Kendall Jenner sent her condolences and urged fans to “give a big hug” to their loved ones before it’s too late.

Ivanka Trump tweeted she would be “praying for a legend and the other passengers whose lives were lost and their families.”

Fellow NBA stars — from Magic Johnson to Dwyane Wade — also posted tributes to social media.