Basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s pilot became ‘disoriented in clouds’ before fatal crash

The helicopter pilot who crashed into a Southern California hillside last year, killing Kobe Bryant and seven other passengers, went against his training and violated flight rules by flying into thick clouds, U.S. safety officials said Tuesday during a hearing aimed at pinpointing probable causes of the crash.

Pilot Ara Zobayan likely became so disoriented that he could not discern up from down, investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board concluded.

The agency criticised Zobayan’s decision to fly into the clouds, saying he violated federal standards that required him to be able to see where he was going before the helicopter crashed during a roughly 40-minute flight.

Zobayan was among the nine people killed, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Bryant, 41, helped guide the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships before retiring in 2016, was one of America’s most popular sporting legends.

The pilot went against his training by becoming spatially disoriented in thick clouds, a condition that can happen to pilots in low visibility, when they cannot tell up from down or discern which way an aircraft is banking, board members said.

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