Three weeks after the tragic January 26 helicopter crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant and his young daughter, and people all over the world are still in mourning.
Almost a month has passed, and most of us still have more questions than answers. Investigators are still officially investigating the cause of the accident, but theories and speculation abound.
Misinformation tends to run rampant following this type of tragedy, but what are the facts?
What Do the Experts Say?
A recent story at LA Times explores the possibility of spatial disorientation leading to the crash. Spacial disorientation happens when a pilot flying in low visibility is unable to see a vertical horizon; thus their senses conflict with the reality of their position.
Multiple experts cited thickening fog as a major contributing factor to the crash. But most experts also agreed that the light fog that was in the air that morning would not normally raise any concerns to long-time helicopter pilots of the area.
In the morning hours, parts of Los Angeles are often covered by light fog, which usually dissipates by noon. Visibility predictions for that day were good. However, the fog became thicker that morning after the helicopter was already in the air.
The helicopter circled for several minutes as the pilot awaited clearance to continue flying in the less-than-favorable conditions that had suddenly arisen. According to a number of aviation experts, the pilot could choose to go back or continue toward the destination, and the choice to continue with decreasing visibility was dangerous.
“Thus far, from the limited amount of information that is available, we know that the helicopter was flying in Marginal Visual Flight Rules, in heavy fog,” said Jeffrey Carrithers, CEO of GlobalAir.com, the internet’s largest aviation resource. “The speed of the helicopter is unknown thus far. We do not know if that could be a contributing factor. The reports do say that the aircraft was in a steep climb at the time of the accident. Since there were nine people on board, there is a small possibility that the aircraft could have been out of weight limits and did not have the power to compensate for the additional weight when the pilot tried to avoid the hillside by climbing in altitude.”
Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board said that the helicopter lacked a terrain avoidance warning system, which the agency has listed as a strong recommendation for all helicopters for a long time.
According to the NTSB, the pilot missed the hill by as much as 30 feet. Jennifer Homendy, an investigator with the NTSB, said that the agency is still working to determine exactly what happened and why it happened. The agency hopes to use the information to try to prevent such tragedies from happening again.
Safety agencies that are working on investigating the crash are also looking at potential weight issues, and are hoping to reach firmer conclusions in the coming months.
For now, the country is trying to move past this tragic loss while keeping memories of a legendary basketball star alive in their minds.
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