Kobe Bryant helicopter crash scene photos captured by California mountain biker
By Isolde Walters
Harrowing pictures show the Kobe Bryant nightmare helicopter crash with debris scattered across the Calabasas hillside.
The graphic images document the horrifying moment the helicopter carrying the 41-year-old NBA legend, his daughter Gianna and seven others, exploded into a fireball.
A mountain biker who captured the images described seeing wreckage spread across the terrain after the helicopter slammed into the ground and exploded.
The burned out helicopter is unrecognizable in the images shrouded in a cloud of thick black smoke that billows into the sky.
The biker, who has asked to remain anonymous, took the pictures off Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas, California, at 9:49 a.m. on Sunday morning.
He was on a mountain bike ride with a friend when they spotted the Sikorsky S-76 carrying Kobe, Gianna, her team-mates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, Alyssa’s parents, John and Keri Altobelli, Payton’s mother Sarah Chester and their basketball coach Christina Mauser, as well as pilot Ara Zobayan.
The group were heading to Mamba Academy, which Kobe founded, in Thousand Oaks, south California.
The source said: “It was foggy and we heard a low-flying helicopter.
“Out of the fog came a helicopter and it slammed into the mountainside about 200 feet from where we were standing.
“We were close enough that we could feel the air from the propellers. There was a huge fireball. One of the helicopter doors landed about ten to fifteen feet away from us.
“Helicopter parts were flying everywhere. It was really grim.
“There was very little left of the helicopter.”
The man admitted that he and his friend were concerned about their own safety, but they still rushed to the crash site in the hope that they may be able to help.
He added: “We rushed down to see if we could help but there were obviously no survivors.
“My friend called 911 and we stayed there until the fire helicopter came and lowered down a fireman. We gave our information to the sheriff’s department.
“We didn’t realize that Kobe Bryant was in the helicopter until we got back down to the parking lot.
“Just the fact that a whole helicopter full of people crashed was shocking to us.”
The photographs show the wreckage of the helicopter crash with debris spread across the hillside.
Investigators have removed three bodies from the crash but officials have warned it could take days to recover all nine victims given the terrain and condition of the site.
There has been a wave of public mourning following the NBA legend’s tragic passing with fans flocking to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Bryant played during his 20-year career with the LA Lakers, to pay their respects.
All flags in the city have been lowered to half-staff in honor of Kobe and the rest of the victims.
Celebrities including Lizzo and Alicia Keys paid tribute to the world-famous athlete at last night’s Grammys award ceremony.
Fellow sportsmen Tiger Woods and David Beckham have mourned Kobe on social media.
Barack Obama tweeted his sympathy for Vanessa, Kobe’s wife of 20 years, when the news of the tragedy broke.
He wrote: “Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act.
“To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.
“Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”