LOS ANGELES (CBS SF/AP) — U.S. safety investigators said Tuesday that the pilot of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter flew through clouds last year in an apparent violation of federal standards and likely became disoriented just before the helicopter crashed, killing Bryant and eight others.
Pilot Ara Zobayan was flying under visual flight rules, which meant that he needed to be able to see where he was going, Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a hearing to specify the likely cause or causes of the crash.READ MORE: Lake County Luxury Hotel, Housing Project Raises Concerns Over Wildfire Risk
Zobayan piloted the aircraft to climb sharply and had nearly broken through the clouds when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter banked abruptly and plunged into the Southern California hills below, killing all aboard.
The helicopter did not have the so-called “black box” recording devices, which were not required.READ MORE: Theft Leaves San Jose Couple Bereft: 'We’re Heartbroken, All Our Precious Things Are Gone'
The revelation during the hearing followed plenty of finger-pointing.
Bryant’s widow had blamed the pilot. She and relatives of the other victims also faulted the companies that owned and operated the helicopter.
The brother of the pilot didn’t blame Bryant but said he knew about the risks of flying. The helicopter companies have said that foggy weather before the helicopter hit the ground was an act of God and blamed air traffic controllers.MORE NEWS: Indoor Restaurant Dining Resumes, Movie Theaters Reopen in SF and Santa Clara Counties