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Feb. 9, 2021, 11:05 a.m. EST

Federal investigators say helicopter pilot in Kobe Bryant crash became disoriented

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The helicopter that Bryant was flying in did not have the system, which the NTSB has recommended as mandatory for helicopters. The FAA requires it only for air ambulances.

However, NTSB investigator-in-charge Bill English said Tuesday that the system, known as TAWS, would likely not have been helpful in the scenario in which Bryant’s helicopter crashed.

The hilly terrain, combined with the pilot’s spatial disorientation in the clouds, would have been “a confusing factor,” English said. “The pilot doesn’t know which way is up.”

Federal investigators said Zobayan, an experienced pilot who often flew Bryant, may have “misperceived” the angles at which he was descending and banking, which can occur when pilots become disoriented in low visibility, according to NTSB documents.

Investigators on Tuesday also faulted Zobayan for banking to the left instead of ascending straight up while trying to climb out of the bad weather.

The others killed in the crash were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. Alyssa and Payton were Gianna’s teammates.

The crash has generated lawsuits and countersuits.

On the day that a massive memorial service was held at the Staples Center , where Bryant played most of his career, Vanessa Bryant sued Zobayan and the companies that owned and operated the helicopter for alleged negligence and the wrongful deaths of her husband and daughter.

Families of other victims sued the helicopter companies but not the pilot. Vanessa Bryant said Island Express Helicopters Inc., which operated the aircraft, and its owner, Island Express Holding Corp., did not properly train or supervise Zobayan. She said the pilot was careless and negligent to fly in fog and should have aborted the flight.

Zobayan’s brother, Berge Zobayan, has said Kobe Bryant knew the risks of flying in a helicopter and that his survivors aren’t entitled to damages from the pilot’s estate. Island Express Helicopters Inc. denied responsibility and said the crash was “an act of God” that it could not control.

The company also countersued two FAA air traffic controllers, saying the crash was caused by their “series of erroneous acts and/or omissions.”

The countersuit claims one controller improperly denied Zobayan’s request for “flight following,” or radar assistance, as he proceeded in the fog. Officials have said the controller terminated service because radar could not be maintained at the altitude the aircraft was flying.

According to the lawsuit, the controller said he was going to lose radar and communications shortly, but radar contact was not lost.

When a second controller took over, the lawsuit said, the first controller failed to brief him about the helicopter, and because the radar services were not terminated correctly, the pilot believed he was being tracked.

Vanessa Bryant also sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, accusing deputies of sharing unauthorized photos of the crash site. California now has a state law prohibiting such conduct.

Read on: Kobe Bryant made over $300 million playing basketball — here’s how he invested his money

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