Everyone knows that Kobe Bryant was one of basketball’s greats. He was, for example, an 18 time NBA All-Star, a key member of the Los Angeles Laker’s team that won the NBA Championship 5 times, and 4th place in career points scored (passed only yesterday). With his civil and charitable involvement, however, I personally think that his post-retirement career was set to surpass his status as a player.
Unfortunately, as the world knows by now, Kobe, his daughter and about six other passengers and one crewmember were tragically killed today in the crash of a Sikorski S-76 helicopter in Calabasas, California. As the initial shock settles in, how this happened is the very first question on everyone’s mind.
It will likely take months to find out exactly what went wrong, but the NTSB has launched its initial investigation. Since this is such a high profile case, we will likely receive information more quickly than usual, but this is the first step in what is a fairly lengthy process. A team of investigators and staff left Washington, D.C. for Los Angeles and will be on scene first thing tomorrow. In the meantime, local authorities have secured the area and have started initial efforts to preserve and gather wreckage and evidence.
The NTSB investigation will no doubt start broadly and narrow as more information is gathered. Some of the things they will examine include: (1) the flight plan for that day; (2) the pilot and his background; (3) the owner / operator of the helicopter; (4) the maintenance records; (5) eyewitnesses / video, if available; (6) weather; and (7) the actual wreckage.
At this early stage, no one, not even the NTSB, knows what happened. Witnesses on the ground apparently reported hearing sputtering sounds, but it’s too soon to know the level of credibility to give to such reports. It was also reportedly foggy at the time, but again, at this point that is simply another factor to explore.
After its initial look, the NTSB Investigator-in-Charge will issue a preliminary report that will outline the basic information known. That report will be followed, some months or years later, by the factual report, which will detail the complete findings of the NTSB. Finally, after the factual report, the NTSB will determine the probable cause of the crash and issue a probable cause report.
This investigation will take a long time and will involve many people. Unfortunately, no one yet knows the direction it will take. What is clear, however, is that everyone has suffered a loss and Kobe’s legacy will not be forgotten.