Authorities say Kobe Bryant's helicopter wasn't equipped with key terrain awareness system

A key piece of information has been uncovered that could help explain what went so wrong in the helicopter crash that killed Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

Officials for the National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday that the helicopter carrying Bryant was not equipped with a terrain alert system that could have warned pilot Ara Zobayan that he was approaching a hillside amid foggy conditions on Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One official actually said the NTSB had recommended 16 years ago the Federal Aviation Administration make such a system mandatory for all helicopters carrying six or more passengers, but the FAA “failed to act” and left such choppers legal.

The FAA reportedly disputed that assessment.

Authorities are still working to find out what happened to Kobe Bryant's helicopter on Sunday. (Reuters/Patrick T. Fallon)
Authorities are still working to find out what happened to Kobe Bryant's helicopter on Sunday. (Reuters/Patrick T. Fallon)

The bodies of all nine crash victims have since been recovered, with deputies patrolling the surrounding area on horseback and ATV while investigators continue their work. Authorities released the names of all nine victims on Monday.

What happened during Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash?

Bryant’s helicopter also lacked a black box according to USA Today, leaving investigators to piece together what happened through radar tracking and air traffic communications. However, multiple pilots who had flown the helicopter in the past vouched for its quality despite being built as far back as 1991.

All of that is just one piece of the puzzle as authorities attempt to pull together a complete story of what happened on Sunday.

Several things are already known. Zobayan was an experienced pilot actually certified to teach in limited-visibility conditions. It was an extremely foggy day and the chopper flying low to avoid the worst of it, until it started rapidly climbing to avoid a cloud immediately before the crash. The crash was high impact, and the helicopter seemed to be falling at high speed.

Per USA Today, the big questions to answer are whether or not Zobayan was lost, if he was flying too low or too fast and if mechanical failure is to blame for the fall.

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