'Changed the time': Devastating new detail about Kobe Bryant tragedy

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game in 2019. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)

Heartbreaking new details about the moments before Kobe Bryant was killed in a devastating helicopter crash have emerged.

Cate Brady, a personal assistant to Bryant, has told National Transportation Safety Board investigators that the NBA legend asked for the doomed flight to be moved forward 45 minutes.

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Brady said the original flight time for Sunday was 9:45 am, but Bryant had it rescheduled to 9am because he wanted to see another team play before his daughter's game at a youth basketball tournament.

“That particular day, for Sunday, I actually changed the time the night before, probably around 6pm or 7pm,” Brady said.

“Because Kobe had decided he wanted to go to watch another team play before his game.

“So it was supposed to be a 9:45am departure, but the night before it was changed to a 9am departure.”

Brady also said the flight departure had been delayed by 15 minutes because of thick fog.

About 45 minutes before takeoff, pilot Ara Zobayan had texted a group of people overseeing the flight that the weather was looking “OK”.

The afternoon before the flight - after returning the Bryants and their guests to Orange County - Zobayan had texted that he had just checked the weather for his next flight and it was “not the best day tomorrow but it is not as bad as today.”

Reports show pilot became disoriented

An NTSB report released on Wednesday also revealed the pilot of the helicopter that crashed in thick fog, killing Bryant and eight other passengers, reported the aircraft was ascending when it actually was heading for the ground.

Zobayan radioed to air-traffic controllers that he was climbing to 4000 feet (1,220 meters) to get above clouds on January 26, when in fact the chopper was plunging toward a hillside where it crashed northwest of Los Angeles, killing all nine people aboard.

The report by the NTSB said Zobayan may have “misperceived” the angles at which he was descending and banking, which can happen when a pilot becomes disoriented in low visibility.

The site of a helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant and eight others. (Photo by TSM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

“Calculated apparent angles at this time show that the pilot could have misperceived both pitch and roll angles,” one report stated.

“During the final descent the pilot, responding to (air traffic control), stated that they were ‘climbing to four thousand.’”

John Cox, an aviation safety consultant, said the helicopter’s erratic flight path - the aircraft slowed, climbed, then banked to one side while sinking rapidly - are telltale signs of a pilot becoming disoriented in conditions that make it hard to see terrain or the horizon.

“He is not the first person to experience it,” Cox said. “It’s a significant cause of accidents.”

Kobe Bryant and daughter among nine killed

The 1700 pages of reports do not offer a conclusion of what caused the crash but compile factual reports. A final report on the cause is due later.

The NTSB said there was no sign of engine failure in the Sikorsky S-76 and the rotor was spinning just before it hit the ground at about 296 km/h.

The impact caused a crater and scattered debris over an area the size of a football field in the Calabasas hills. Flames engulfed the wreckage.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and six of their friends were killed, along with Zobayan.

Kobe Bryant, wife Vanessa and daughters Gianna and Natalia in 2016. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

Zobayan took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 am with the eight passengers he had flown the day before to the same destination: the girls basketball tournament at the retired Lakers star’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.

When the helicopter hadn’t landed within an hour, an executive of the company that operated the aircraft began a frantic search for it on tracking software and had another company chopper dispatched to look for it.

“The weird thing, though, is that the tracker had stopped at 9:45 am which is not normal and we were trying to reach Ara over the radio,” noted Whitney Bagge, vice president of Island Express Helicopters.

“I kept refreshing the tracker praying that it was just broken.”

with Associated Press