Helicopter company suspends operations following Kobe Bryant crash
Island Express has suspended all operations indefinitely.
January 31, 2020, 1:41 AM
4 min read
Island Express, the company listed as the owner in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others said it is canceling all flights until further notice.
The California company had regularly provided private helicopter flights for Bryant, and others, in addition to sightseeing flights for tourists.
“All services (regular and charter) were immediately suspended following the tragic accident on Sunday, January 26,” the company said in a statement on Thursday. “The shock of the accident affected all staff, and management decided that service would be suspended until such time as it was deemed appropriate for staff and customers.”
Bryant had chartered the flight on Sunday morning to fly to Mamba Sports Academy for a girls basketball tournament featuring his daughter’s team. Two other children, Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli, as well as a coach, Christina Mauser, were on the flight. Chester’s mother, Sarah, and Altobelli’s mother and father, Keri and John, were also killed in the accident.
Pilot Ara Zobayan, who had worked for the company for over 10 years, was the ninth victim.
Island Express said in a statement on Monday that it owned the Sikorsky S76 helicopter and promised to cooperate with the National Transportation Safety Board in investigating the accident.
“One of our helicopters, N72EX, Sikorsky S76, was involved in an accident on Sunday, January 26th in the Calabasas area of LA County,” the company said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our top priority is providing assistance to the families of the passengers and the pilot. We hope that you will respect their privacy at this extremely difficult time.”
“We are working closely with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the cause of the accident and we are grateful to the first responders and local authorities for their response to this unimaginable accident,” it added.
The helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport and was headed toward Thousand Oaks.
NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said Tuesday the helicopter was not equipped with a Terrain Awareness Warning System, or TAWS, which could have alerted the pilot that he was flying too close to the mountain. The NTSB recommended to the Federal Aviation Administration following a 2004 crash that all helicopters should be equipped with the system, but it was not implemented.
It’s unclear whether the system would’ve prevented the accident, which took place in heavy enough fog that the L.A. Sheriff’s Department said it kept its choppers grounded.
The NTSB investigation continues, with a preliminary report expected next week.
ABC News’ Matthew Vann and Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.