LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Tuesday marked exactly one year since the devastating helicopter crash which claimed the lives of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
On the morning of Jan. 26, 2020, a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter carrying the nine people had departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County and was bound for Camarillo, with the passengers on board heading to Kobe's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where Kobe was set to coach Gianna in a tournament game.
However, the helicopter crashed in Calabasas amid heavy fog.
Bryant's widow remembered her late husband and daughter on Instagram late Monday night, posting a letter she received from one of Gianna's friends:
"Today I received this sweet letter from one of Gianna's best friends, Aubrey," Bryant wrote. "I love you Aubz (as my Gigi would call you). Thank you so much for beautifully sharing some of your memories of my Gigi with me and allowing me to share them here on my ig. My Gigi is INCREDIBLE and I truly appreciate your thoughtful letter. She loves you so much. I miss my baby girl and Kob-Kob so much, too. I will never understand why/how this tragedy could've happened to such beautiful, kind and amazing human beings. It still doesn't seem real. Kob, we did it right. Gigi, you still make mommy proud. I love you!"
Also killed in the crash was 56-year-old John Altobelli, a longtime coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team, his 46-year-old wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, who was a teammate of Gianna's.
Sarah Chester, 45, and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who also played with Gianna, died as well, along with 38-year-old Christina Mauser, one of Bryant's assistant coaches on the Mamba Academy team.
The 50-year-old pilot, Ara Zobayan, also perished.
The National Transportation Safety Board has scheduled a Feb. 9 meeting to announce the results of its investigation into the cause of the crash. In its preliminary report, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that there was no evidence the chopper's engines had failed prior to going down.
Documents made public last year by the NTSB lent credence to the growing theory the pilot may have become disoriented while navigating through the fog.
According to documents made public last summer, Zobayan's last communication with air-traffic controllers before the crash indicated that he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above the cloud cover. However, flight data from the NTSB indicated the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was actually descending at the time while banking to the left, ultimately slamming into the ground a rate of about 4,000 feet per minute.
Following the wreck, there has been a push to require all helicopters which carry six or more people have terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS), something which was not present on Kobe's helicopter. U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) last year introduced the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act, which would direct the FAA and NTSB to place TAWS systems in all helicopters.
Immediately following the crash, an NTSB official criticized the FAA for not requiring either black boxes or TAWS systems on helicopters.
Vanessa Bryant has also sued the L.A. County Sheriff's Department over cell phone pictures taken at the crash scene by responding deputies. It lead to a new California law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom which makes it a misdemeanor for first responders to take and share accident and crime scene photos for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose or a genuine public interest.
Mourners this past year have paid tribute to the sports legend in many ways. Murals of Bryant have been painted across the Southland and the world. The L.A. City Council is considering a proposal to rename a downtown L.A. street outside Staples Center as Kobe Bryant Boulevard.
The L.A. City Council has also declared Aug. 24 as Kobe Bryant Day in perpetuity, on the date of the jersey numbers he wore with the team.
Bryant played his entire 20-season career with the Lakers, leading them to five NBA titles.
He scored 33,643 points, the fourth-most in league history. Lakers' superstar LeBron James, who had a very close relationship with Bryant, has 34,241 points. He passed Bryant on the all-time list on Jan. 25, 2020, one day before the helicopter crash. Over the weekend, James was asked about the anniversary.
James was asked about the impending anniversary following the Lakers' game on Saturday night.
"Man, it's a saying that says, `Time heals all,"' James told reporters. "And as devastating and as tragic as it was and still is to all of us involved with it, only time (will help). And it takes time. Everyone has their own grieving process. Everyone understands that everyone individually is different. Everyone is going to grieve differently. All you can do as a friend or a loved one or anyone in our brotherhood or our familyhood that we have here in the Lakers organization is to put an arm around someone when they need it."
Just before leaving office, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order to put together a National Garden of American Heroes, or National Garden, with Bryant to be included on the list of heroes.
The Lakers aren't planning a formal tribute on the anniversary of his death, nor are players scheduled to wear their "Black Mamba" tribute uniforms for Wednesday's game in Philadelphia. However, players have been paying subtle tribute by wearing his signature sneakers and breaking huddles by shouting "Mamba on three!"
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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