The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Tuesday cited the actions of the pilot as the probable cause of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed retired NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, saying the pilot became disoriented and did not follow rules for flying in cloudy weather.
The NTSB cited Pilot Ara Zobayan's decision to continue the flight into weather conditions that resulted in the pilot's "spatial disorientation and loss of control."
The board also cited Zobayan's "likely self-induced pressure" to complete the flight.
Zobayan told air traffic controllers that his helicopter was climbing out of heavy clouds when in fact it was descending, immediately before slamming into a hillside near the town of Calabasas in California, the agency said. Zobayan was among those killed in the crash of the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter outside Los Angeles in hilly terrain.
The agency cited Zobayan's "poor decision to fly in excess of airspeed" and said the weather conditions were "inconsistent with adverse weather training."
NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said Zobayan should not have flown into the clouds. Pilots can become confused about an aircraft's attitude and acceleration when they cannot see the sky or landscape around them, the board said.
It said previously an examination of the helicopter's engines and rotors found no evidence of catastrophic mechanical failure.
Bryant, 41, an 18-time National Basketball Association all-star with the Los Angeles Lakers, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, two other girls and several friends to a youth basketball tournament at the time of the crash. The accident prompted an outpouring of shock and grief from sports fans worldwide.