THE pilot of the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant was told he was flying too low before it smashed into a hillside in fog.
The 41-year-old Los Angeles Lakers legend was killed along with his daughter Gianna, 13, when the chopper hit the ground at 185mph.
Audio between the pilot of helicopter Kobe’s Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, which had the tail number N72EX, and air traffic control reveals he was told he was flying too low.
“Two echo x-ray you are still too low for flight following at this time,” the controller says.
Questions remain about why the aircraft was flying when most helicopter traffic was grounded, including the LAPD’s own fleet, due to the foggy conditions.
Who made the decision to fly in such treacherous weather will almost certainly form a part of any investigation.
The pilot had planned to land at Burbank Airport but circled for 15 minutes waiting for clearance.
“Hold outside Burbank, I have an aircraft,” an air traffic control tower employee said as Bryant’s helicopter tried to land, according to Radar Online.
“He’s been holding for about 15 minutes,” a flight tower employee said around 9.30am.
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was told he was flying too close to the ground.
Per audio from before the crash, Zobayan said: “OK, we’ll continue holding.”
In the moments before the crash, the helicopter climbed to 2000 feet and then hit the mountain at 1700 feet.
Sources told the New York Post the pilot was in charge of the aircraft when it hit the ground, which points to him becoming disorientated rather then mechanical failure.
Attempting to fly around mountains, such as those that surround LA, in fog has led to many helicopter crashes.
A detailed analysis of the flight path by New York Magazine, shows the pilot attempting to negotiate hilly ground while flying visually.
“When you get in the soup, your senses don’t work,” said Paul Cline, assistant professor of aviation at New York University.
The helicopter plunged into a rugged hillside Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed everyone aboard.
Audio between the pilot and air traffic control obtained by The Sun reveal that air traffic controllers were attempting to guide the helicopter, but lost contact moments before its fatal fall.
As well as his daughter, Bryant was travelling with, college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa along with one of the coaches at Kobe’s youth academy, Christina Mauser.
The other two passengers were later revealed to be Sarah and Payton Chester.
Mauser was married to Tijuana Dogs singer Matt Mauser, who confirmed the news himself.
“My kids and I are devastated,” he wrote on Facebook.
“We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much.”
Phillipe Lesourd, an experienced helicopter pointed out that the dismal conditions, caused by a heavy blanket of fog, had caused problems for other aircraft.
“You can hear the controller saying that it had an ‘ad go around,’ that means an aircraft already cancelled its landing because of low visibility,” said Phillipe.
“That is not a good sign.”
Witnesses said they felt the impact of the crash but were unable to see the helicopter.
Calabasas resident Matt Graham told The People: “I was sitting on my couch when I heard it go over our roof. I thought to myself, ‘Wow they’re flying really low today.’
“It must’ve been about 100 feet above our roof by the way the house was shaking. I couldn’t imagine why a helicopter was flying so low.”