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What Caused Kobe Bryant's Helicopter Crash That Killed Nine People?

What Caused Kobe Bryant's Helicopter Crash?

What caused Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash? That's been the question on everyone's mind since it was discovered that the NBA great, his daughter, and a total of nine victims lost their lives as a result of a helicopter crash that took place on January 26, 2020, at about 10:00 a.m. PT.

While the NTSB has announced that, as of this writing, the official cause of the crash is still under investigation, there have been a few theories about what, exactly, went wrong. 

RELATED: RIP Kobe Bryant — Basketball Great; Daughter Gianna, 13, Amongst Those Dead In A Helicopter Crash​

So let's look at what we know thus far what caused the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash.

1. What caused Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash? Weather may have played a role. 

On January 26, 2020, the weather conditions in and around the greater Los Angeles area were nothing if not treacherous for helicopters. Reports from the area suggest that the dense fog actually caused the air traffic controllers to ground a few helicopters and other aircraft, and refused to let them fly.

Bearing that in mind, the common sense question that remains is, why was the helicopter carrying Bryant and eight other people allowed to take off? ​ We'll get into that below.

2. Poor weather conditions are considered a major cause of helicopter crashes. 

Helicopters are difficult machines to operate and require a lot of skill to do so. However, poor weather conditions are considered a major cause of helicopter crashes.

Other causes of helicopter crashes include failing to plan a good flight path, failure to be properly trained in flying a helicopter, and failure to adequately maintain the craft. 

3. Could it have been completely avoided? 

Sources say Bryant and his fellow passengers were traveling to Thousand Oaks, CA, from Calabasas, CA. Gianna, Kobe Bryant's daughter, was expected to play with the Lady Mavericks at the Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, where Bryant coached and Gianna Bryant played. 

So why was the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and a total of nine other people allowed to take off?

The flight conditions in Los Angeles that day were so terrible that several other helicopters and aircraft were grounded on that day — but recently released audio from the air traffic controller to the helicopter's pilot revealed that Bryant's helicopter was allowed to fly under "SVFR," or "special visual flight rules."

This allowed the pilot to fly under conditions that no other aircraft would be allowed to fly under — and while the pilot was directed to fly at an altitude of 2,500 ft. or lower, it was later determined that that was far too low to be seen on the air traffic controller's radar, suggesting this tragic situation could have potentially been completely avoided. 

RELATED: Everything You Wanted To Know About Vanessa Bryant, Who Lost Her Husband Kobe Bryant And Daughter, Gianna, In Horrifying Helicopter Accident​

4. The investigation could take several days to complete. 

Because of the remote location where the helicopter crash took place, investigators reported that it could take several days for them to complete their investigation with any authority. The crash, in fact, happened in such a heavily wooded area that first responders couldn't get to the craft for nearly 10 minutes, and the fire surrounding the crash took quite a while to properly extinguish. 

What we know right now thanks to the recently-released flight tracker, however, is that the helicopter started hitting problems around the Glendale area, when the helicopter started circling the area around the Los Angeles Zoo. Flight officials say that this area was particularly foggy — the weather was so bad, in fact, that even LAPD helicopters were grounded and prohibited from flying in the area.

At around 9:30 a.m. PT — just 30 minutes before the helicopter crashed — the pilot made contact with the Burbank Airport, and told the control tower that they'd been circling the Glendale area for about 15 minutes, waiting for the fog to clear before proceeding. So the pilot started heading north, thinking they'd hit better weather — unfortunately, though, the fog became worse, and not better, and the helicopter eventually crashed.

5. But investigators have made clear that they don't need any help. 

Despite the best intentions of well-wishers, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has made it clear people should let the professionals do their jobs, and not interfere.

"It’s a logistical nightmare because the crash site itself is not easily accessible," he said, adding that people need to stay away from the site because, despite their best efforts, any sort of "unprofessional help" will only hinder, not help, the recovery efforts.

6. For now, Kobe Bryant's number will be retired by the Dallas Mavericks — though it is unclear if it will be retired by the entire NBA.

"We are shocked and saddened by the devastating news of the passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. Kobe was an ambassador for our game, a decorated legend and a global icon. Above all, he was a loving and dedicated father.Kobe’s legacy transcends basketball, and our organization has decided that the number 24 will never again be worn by a Dallas Maverick," said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in a statement, which you can read in its entirety below.

It will be interesting to see if, indeed, if the NBA retires the number as a whole. The last time an entire sports league retired a number was in 2000, when the NHL retired Wayne Gretzy's No. 99.

Our thoughts are with Kobe Bryant's family during this difficult time, and we will definitely keep you posted of any developments of the cause of the crash, as well. 

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, publicist, and photographer whose work has appeared in Teen Vogue, People, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, BET.com, and more.