In the minutes after a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight other people careened into the side of a hill in Calabasas on the morning of January 26, telephone calls from stunned onlookers began pouring in to the area’s emergency dispatch centers.
Today, the Los Angeles County Fire Department released audio of calls associated with the crash, which killed Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, basketball coach Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, her 13-year-old daughter Payton, baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri Altobelli, their 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, and pilot Ara Zobayan.
“A helicopter crashed into a mountain. We heard it and now I’m looking at the flames, at Malibu Canyon and Agoura Road,” one caller told a dispatcher. “I’m at Erewhon supermarket, we can see it.”
Several others reported seeing only the fire burning in the aftermath, but some reported actually hearing the impact of the wreck. “I could hear this plane, as if it was in the clouds but couldn’t see it, then we just heard a boom and a dead sound, and then I could see the flames,” one caller said.
It doesn’t appear that any callers actually saw the crash take place because of the heavy fog and cloud cover, which may have been contributing factors in the incident. After taking off from John Wayne Airport earlier that morning, Zobayan had reportedly requested that flight controllers track their aircraft, but it was flying too low to be detected on radar. Zobayan then climbed to upward of 700 feet in 36 seconds before descending rapidly and striking the hillside.
One 911 caller said, “Yeah, I would call FAA and find out who’s flying in this area. Get a flight plan. I was just thinking to myself, if this guy doesn’t have night vision, he completely IFR [instrument flight rules]…[then] he’s got no visual.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, but has yet to disclose a cause. As the investigation continues, the L.A. Times reports that the remains of all the people who perished have been released to their respective families.
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