By Agence France-Presse
The helicopter that crashed into a Los Angeles hillside killing NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight others, was not equipped with vital software that alerts pilots when an aircraft is too close to the ground, officials said.
The terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), which is designed to send a warning when a collision appears imminent, had not been installed on Bryant’s Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, the National Transport Safety Board’s (NTSB) Jennifer Homendy said.
“Certainly, TAWS could have helped,” NBC News reported Homendy as saying, adding that she could not conclude that its use would have prevented the crash.
The warning system is not mandatory on helicopters under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, despite the NTSB recommending that it be made so on all helicopters with six or more passenger seats, following a 2004 crash.
Medical examiners identified the body of Lakers star Bryant after recovering the remains of all nine of those who died in the crash near LA, officials said Tuesday.
Bryant’s body was officially identified along with three others using fingerprints, two days after their helicopter crashed into a rugged hillside northwest of the city.
Meanwhile, federal investigators finished their inspection of the crash site, handing it over to local authorities.
Images showed investigators flying drones over the accident site and manually combing through twisted, charred wreckage, which was scattered over a wide area.
Officials also used drones to replicate the helicopter’s final, fateful flight path, Homendy said.
Earlier Tuesday, the coroner’s office confirmed all nine bodies have been retrieved from the site and “transported to the department’s forensic science center” for examination.
The bodies of pilot Ara Zobayan, baseball coach John Altobelli and Sarah Chester have also been identified.
The remaining five — including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna — have not yet been officially identified.
The death of Bryant — a five-time NBA champion for the LA Lakers and double Olympic gold medalist — has shocked the world, with tributes continuing to pour in Tuesday.
Bryant, 41, was traveling with daughter Gianna and seven other passengers and crew when the Sikorsky S-76 slammed into a hillside in thick fog.
The helicopter was headed to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where his daughter was set to play.
Homendy described the accident as a “high energy impact crash”.
Investigators have now airlifted the helicopter’s wreckage onto trucks, which then transported it to a secure location for further examination.
An iPad, cellphone and maintenance records were found among the wreckage, along with “everything we would expect would be on the aircraft,” said Homendy.
She told journalists that the probable cause for the accident may not be confirmed for 12-18 months, when a final report will be issued.
A preliminary, fact-based report is expected in 10 days.
‘Heartbroken and devastated’
The other passengers on the flight — who have not yet been officially identified — have been named as Altobelli’s wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa, who played basketball at the same club as Gianna.
Christina Mauser, an assistant coach of the Mamba girls’ basketball team, was also killed along with Payton Chester, Sarah’s daughter.
Mourning fans Tuesday placed bouquets of flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the gated community in Newport Beach, south of Los Angeles, where the late NBA great lived.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said a tribute to Bryant would be included in next month’s Oscars ceremony.
The star, who won an Academy Award in 2018 for animated short film “Dear Basketball,” had been honored with a moment’s silence at the Oscars nominees’ luncheon on Monday.
A petition for the NBA logo to be redesigned with Bryant’s likeness had reached two million signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
Basketball superstar LeBron James said he was “heartbroken and devastated” over Bryant’s death in an emotional Instagram post, while also vowing to continue his friend’s championship legacy with the Lakers.
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic donned a jersey bearing Bryant’s initials and shirt numbers at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.
With the crash site becoming a pilgrimage point for fans, police on horseback and all-terrain vehicles have been brought in to secure the area.