Witnesses have described hearing a spluttering sound moments before a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant crashed into a hillside in LA, killing nine people, including the NBA legend and his daughter.
L.A Times reporter Richard Winton was in the area when he heard the aircraft in trouble
“Small plane crash on Las Virgenes on the mountains, which are fogged in right now. I heard the plane splutter and then a boom,” he tweeted.
Winton later wrote a column about his experience.
“Using binoculars, I was able to see the aircraft had been torn apart and was on fire,” he wrote.
“It turned out the aircraft was a helicopter, and it was scattered in many pieces on the hillside.
“In the ensuing minutes, a stream of firefighters arrived to tackle the fire. I was able to make it closer to the crash site, where I saw debris strewn across the hillside, still smoldering.
The Los Angeles Times spoke to witnesses who saw the helicopter flying unusually low, then vanishing into a cloud of fog.
“It didn’t sound right and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy,” said Jerry Kocharian.
After the helicopter disappeared into the fog, he heard a “boom”.
“There was a big fireball. No one could survive that,” he said.
“Because of its proximity to the ground, I knew something was wrong. It was hovering real low, like they were searching to land. It was making a slow left turn. It was about 9:44 a.m., and then the impact happened. I heard a crunch. I don’t think it pancaked. I think it hit rotors first,” another witness, Scott Daehlin, said “I immediately called 911.”
With foggy conditions, flight tracker data shows Bryant’s helicopter circled an area near L.A Zoo six times at a low altitude for 10-15 minutes before continuing north west. It then turned south into a hilly region of LA, rising rapidly from 1250 feet to 2050 feet in the space of a minute before crashing at 1700 feet.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter was seen flying through thick plumes of white smoke while video of the tragic crash’s aftermath shows authorities surveying the smouldering wreckage of the Sikorsky S-76 amid thick fog.
The aircraft went down around 10 a.m. local time, igniting a brush fire, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The blaze made it tough for firefighters and emergency personnel to get to the chopper, a watch commander for the LA County Sheriff’s Department told the paper.