More than a year later, federal officials have announced that Kobe Bryant’s helicopter pilot is responsible for the crash that killed the NBA legend, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others–including the pilot.
According to reports from the Associated Press, the National Transportation Safety Board said that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, is at fault for the accident. He is said to have disregarded his training when he flew into thick clouds, which is when he became disoriented and dove into a hillside in Southern California.
The NTSB—an independent government agency that’s responsible for investigating transportation-related crashes—said that due to poor visibility, Zobayan likely couldn’t discern up from down. They also said that he disregarded his training and breached federal regulations during the 40-minute flight.
On Tuesday, the agency shared its discoveries during a hearing, which comes following an investigation into how the crash happened. Officials said they think Zobayan experienced “the leans,” a spatial disorientation that takes place in the inner ear and “causes pilots to believe they are flying aircraft straight and level when they are in fact banking,” the AP reports. According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Visual Flight Rules, pilots are required to be able to see where they’re going.
The five board members at the NTSB unanimously agreed that rather than land at another local airport due to bad weather, Zobayan probably pressured himself to complete the flight for Kobe, who he had flown many times before. Zobayan also didn’t file a backup flight plan before leaving.
Additionally, the agency blamed aircraft operator, Island Express Helicopters, Inc. for insufficient review and neglect of safety concerns.