No evidence of catastrophic engine failure in helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others, NTSB says

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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JULY 27: Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is looking into the January 26 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight other people in Southern California, announced Friday there was no evidence of catastrophic engine failure.

“Viewable sections of the engines showed no evidence of an uncontained or catastrophic internal failure,” the investigative update said.

Earlier this month, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said preliminary information suggests the Sikorsky S-76B descended rapidly before it crashed.

“The descent rate for the helicopter was over 2,000 feet a minute,” Homendy said. “This is a pretty steep descent at high speed.”

Radar data indicated the helicopter climbed 2,300 feet and began a left descending turn, she said.

The crash impact broke the helicopter into pieces, creating a debris field stretching about 500 to 600 feet, according to Homendy.

“Our investigators have already developed a substantial amount of evidence about the circumstances of this tragic crash,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt in an accompanying statement Friday. “And we are confident that we will be able to determine its cause as well as any factors that contributed to it so we can make safety recommendations to prevent accidents like this from occurring again.”

In addition to Bryant, 41, and his daughter, Gianna Bryant, 13, the crash claimed the lives of Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50.

The cause of death for all nine victims was determined to be blunt force trauma, and the manner of death was certified as accident, according to the coroner’s office.

The group was expected at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game on the day the helicopter crashed about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

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