The Tragic Accident That Shook The World

Athletes | 1/28/20

It was the day of the Grammys and excitement buzzed around Los Angeles, as the award ceremony takes place at the Staples Center. Earlier that morning, TMZ broke the news that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. As great as he was on the court, he had an even bigger impact away from the game with how he inspired so many to try their best and put in the work. The tragic news of Bryant’s death was heartbreaking, and fans around the world struggled to understand how it was possible that their role model had passed away so unexpectedly.

A Fateful Crash

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Twitter
Twitter

Kobe (41) and Gianna Bryant (13), along with seven others, lost their lives in an unexpected helicopter crash after departing from John Wayne Airport in Orange County. They were en route to Los Angeles.

Bryant had taken a similar trip and ridden a helicopter thousands of times over, so there was no need for concern. Bryant made traveling this way a common thing since his days in the NBA so that he could waste less time sitting in traffic.

Kobe’s Former Pilot Spoke About The Aircraft

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TSM / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images
TSM / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

There is still a lot to uncover about the incident, like how it happened, was it a human or mechanical mistake, and so forth. Many have questions concerning the pilot and the actions he chose.

Kurt Deetz is a former pilot for Island Express and used to fly Bryant around from 2014 to 2016. According to Deetz, who spent more than 1,000 hours flying the Two Echo X-ray, the craft’s condition was fantastic. He also mentioned that it followed a “very good maintenance program.”

Deetz Has A Hypothesis

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TSM / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images
TSM / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

There were poor weather conditions across southern California on the day of the crash. When Deetz learned of the accident, “my heart sank,” he said. He also said the climate in Van Nuys that morning was “not good at all.”

Deetz says the crash must’ve been the result of the weather and not a mechanical issue. “The likelihood of a catastrophic twin-engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen,” he said. Reports later revealed that the helicopter was going at a rate of 160 MPH.

Calling For Help From The Plane?

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Twitter
Twitter

The first unconfirmed rumor was that an emergency call came from the helicopter as it began going down near the crash site in Calabasas. Soon enough, the firemen and other workers showed up to a fire.

Deetz broke down the scenario by adding that after 40 minutes of flying at 160 MPH, the helicopter would have had about 800 pounds of fuel. “That’s enough to start a pretty big fire,” he said. Not much could’ve helped…

Kobe Did This All The Time For Family

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RB / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images
RB / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

A while ago, the five-time NBA champion spoke with Alex Rodriguez about his travel routine on the former baseball player’s podcast. The root behind it was traffic and wanting to spend more time with his family.

“Traffic (in Los Angeles) started getting really bad. I was sitting in traffic and I ended up missing, like, the school play because I was sitting in traffic. And it just kept mounting,” Bryant said. “So that’s when I looked into helicopters, and I was able to get down and back in 15 minutes.”

Details About The Fateful Flight

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Twitter
Twitter

The first bit of information revealed about the crash is probably the most touching. Outside of the news spreading that a healthy amount of firefighters, paramedics, and police crew showed up to the scene, where Bryant and the others were headed was important too.

The group on board that helicopter was on their way to the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks. The pilot lost connection near the accident area and the crash left no survivors.

Kobe Transcended Sports

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KENA BETANCUR / AFP via Getty Images
KENA BETANCUR / AFP via Getty Images

There are very few sports stars that replicated what Bryant did. There may be several personalities that stand out, like Lionel Messi, Roger Federer, Lewis Hamilton, and Michael Phelps among others, but very few transcend the game. Bryant was one of them.

Its the idea that these stars have superpowers, that the level they achieve is highly unattainable, which makes something tragic like this so unbearable. When you combine all of this, you get a world of people shedding tears.

He Was This Era’s Michael Jordan

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VINCENT LAFORET / AFP via Getty Images
VINCENT LAFORET / AFP via Getty Images

Bryant always received comparisons to Michael Jordan, his idol and the player he modeled his game after. Even in his first few years in the league, he let the world know that he wanted to be better than Jordan. He would eventually go on to pass Jordan in all-time scoring.

Jordan himself said after the crash: “There are no words to describe my pain. I loved Kobe, he was like a younger brother to me. We used to talk often, and I will miss him. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greatest, a creative force and an incredible dad.”

What About Going Back In Time?

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Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

In one interview that the Black Mamba had over the course of his 20-year NBA career, he famously spoke about going back in time. He talked about what he would do if that could happen.

The legend of the sport said: “If I had the power to go back time I would never use it. Because every moment you went through means nothing. It loses its essence if you go back and repeat it. Things have an end. The moments will never come back.”

From Messi To Kobe

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YouTube
YouTube

Lionel Messi and Bryant worked together a few times in the past due to advertising campaigns and events. They weren’t strangers, in fact, each motivated each other in their sports.

Messi took to Instagram to say: “I have no words… All my love for Kobe’s family and friends. It was a pleasure to meet you and share good times together. You were a genius like few others.” It’s clear that the two had a nice relationship.

Life After Sports

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Mike Coppola / VF19 / Getty Images for VF
Mike Coppola / VF19 / Getty Images for VF

Bryant played 20 long years in the NBA, all for the Los Angeles Lakers. He had accomplished more than players could even dream of, and when it came time to hang it up, he was ready. He said he felt, “very at peace with that, very grateful for these twenty years that I’ve had and … ready to go.”

Even though he was ready to leave the NBA, he wasn’t ready to leave the sport. Bryant launched the Mamba Academy, and he remained one of the primary faces of Nike.

Other Theories About The Crash

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AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Firefighters at the scene of the crash received an alert before ten in the morning and there were several key witnesses who spoke about the accident in the area as well.

One of them commented: “I was sitting at my dining room table on Sunday morning when I heard the buzzing of the helicopter blades. It was a cloudy morning, with visibility less than 20 meters away. I looked at a nearby window of my house and heard a massive bang. Then, a fireball broke out on a hillside of Las Vírgenes Road.”

The Second Key Witness

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Al Bello / Getty Images
Al Bello / Getty Images

Jerry Kocharian (62), was another key witness and was able to provide some insight as to what happened. Kocharian said that “the helicopter did not sound very good, flew low and I saw it fall.”

He would go on to clarify that, moments before listening to the aircraft, he visually lost it between the clouds, but later heard an explosion and saw a fireball. He ended with: “No one could survive that.” Sadly, he was correct.

“Very Loud Helicopter”

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TSM / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images
TSM / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

Lastly, there was another person who was in the area but didn’t know it was a helicopter transporting Bryant. Her name is Kathy Sonnad and she said, “I heard this very noisy helicopter.”

The 40-year-old Sonnad also added that it was normal for there to be helicopters flying around that area, coming and going from Santa Barbara, but this time it was unusual. “It was incredibly strong, it sounded like it was as low as a rooftop,” she added.

Gianna Bryant Also Lost Her Life

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Paul Bereswill / Getty Images
Paul Bereswill / Getty Images

Sadly, Bryant’s second-oldest daughter, Gianna, was in the helicopter as well, as she was on her way to the Mamba Acadamy, a destination she always travels to. At 13, she was already gaining recognition as a talented basketball player who wanted to play for UConn.

Gigi, as Bryant would call her, was one of Bryant’s four daughters and was already proven on the basketball court. She was a sub-16 champion and vocal about wanting to become the best.

The Spanish Elite Speak Out

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Elsa / Getty Images
Elsa / Getty Images

Bryant played with Pau Gasol and won two championships with him. They developed a deep brotherhood, so after the crash, he had some words. “More than devastated … my big brother … I just can’t believe it,” Gasol wrote.

In the tennis world, Rafael Nadal said: “I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest athletes in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I’m in shock.”

Everyone Else Involved In The Crash

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TSM / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images
TSM / Bauer-Griffin / GC Images

In addition to Bryant and his daughter, there were seven other individuals who lost their lives. All of them were involved in sports, as they traveled with Bryant on their way to the Mamba Academy.

Their names were Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Payton Chester, and Sarah Chester. John was a baseball coach at Orange Coast College, traveling with his wife and daughter on board. Meanwhile, Mauser was one of Bryant’s top assistant coaches. Zobayan was the man piloting.

Former Colleagues Left Stunned

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Timothy Nwachukwu / Getty Images
Timothy Nwachukwu / Getty Images

In an NBA game that happened the same day of Bryant’s passing, those playing were noticeably distraught by the news and even said they had no care if they won or not.

People wanted the NBA to postpone games that day due to the mindstate a lot of players would be in, but it didn’t happen. The Pepsi Center, where the game was held, also had a long moment of silence and the scene of players crying was tough to watch.

Statement From The NBA

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Elsa / Getty Images
Elsa / Getty Images

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was among one of those completely taken aback by the news. On his behalf, the NBA released a statement saying: “The NBA family is devastated by the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.”

He wasn’t done there as he added, “Kobe showed what is possible when a great talent is combined with an absolute devotion to winning.” Finally, he finished with, “He will be more remembered for inspiring people from around the world to take a basketball and compete as best they could.”

Tributes Across The League

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Ronald Cortes / Getty Images
Ronald Cortes / Getty Images

The pain is felt all around the league. Many players did gestures like writing messages on their shoes or even changing their jersey numbers to eight if they were able to.

The most touching trend that the whole league started doing was purposely receiving a 24-second shot clock violation. Bryant wore 24, so this was a huge sign of respect that the San Antonio Spurs started, even after all those years of Bryant preventing them from going to the Finals.