The 911 calls from witnesses who saw Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash burst into flames in California have been released.
Multiple callers reported hearing the NBA superstar’s helicopter fly overhead before seeing it crash into a hillside in Calabasas last week.
The audio between the witnesses and dispatchers with the Los Angeles Fire Department was released on Monday.
One man who was walking on a nearby trail told dispatchers he thought he saw a small plane fly overhead before hearing a loud boom.
‘I can hear this plane, I think it was in the clouds,’ he told the dispatcher, according to the audio obtained by ABC15.
‘We couldn’t see it and then we just heard a boom and a dead sound. Then I can see the flames.’
Another man told dispatchers he was standing in the parking lot of a nearby supermarket when he saw the helicopter crash into the hillside.
‘We heard it, and I’m now looking at the flames,’ he said.
Another caller said he didn’t see the crash but became concerned by a sudden silence after the helicopter flew overhead.
‘I just heard a helicopter go over me,’ he said. ‘It went over my head, it is thick in the clouds and then I heard a pop and it immediately stopped.’
The release of the audio came as the bodies of Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were released to the family by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
The NBA legend and his daughter were among nine killed when the helicopter crashed.
It has since emerged that the charter company who owned the helicopter was not certified to fly in conditions that require pilots to only use cockpit instruments.
Island Express Helicopters, which owned the Sikorsky S-76B, was only certified to operate under visual flight rules, which means pilots must be able to clearly see outside the aircraft in daylight.
While the pilot was licensed for instrument flying, he didn’t have legal authority for that specific flight because the charter company did not have the necessary Federal Aviation Administration certification, sources told the New York Times.
The aircraft was equipped for instrument flying.
The company has since revealed they are grounding all flights in the wake of the crash that killed Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
The pilot in Sunday’s crash, Ara Zobayan, had been climbing out of the clouds when the chartered aircraft went into a sudden and terrifying 1,200-foot descent that lasted nearly a minute.
It slammed into a fog-shrouded hillside, scattering debris more than 500 feet.
Air traffic controllers had given Zobayan special visual flight rules (SVFR) or clearance to fly in the less-than-optimal weather around the Burbank airport.
He was told to follow a freeway and stay at or below 2,500 feet. Under a SVFR clearance, pilots are allowed to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for visual flight rules (VFR). Special VFR clearances are only issued when cloud ceilings are below 1,000 feet above ground level.
Due to the poor visibility, the pilot could have contacted air traffic controllers and requested to switch to instrument flight rules (IFR), which would have allowed him to navigate through the clouds.
The details about the company’s lack of certification now prompts questions as to why the pilot didn’t file a instrument flight plan that would have enabled him to climb above the fog en route to their destination.
National Transportation Safety Board officials are currently reviewing the company’s certifications.