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NTSB Official Investigating Kobe Bryant Crash Criticizes FAA Over Lack Of Black Box Regulations For Choppers

CALABASAS (CBSLA) – In the wake of the chopper crash which killed NBA star Kobe Bryant and eight others, a National Transportation Safety Board official Tuesday criticized the Federal Aviation Administration for not requiring black boxes or a terrain warning system in helicopters.

NTSB official Jennifer Homendy noted that the FAA had failed to implement a pair of recommendations made by the NTSB in response to past helicopter crashes. Those included requiring that helicopters include cockpit voice recorders and data recorders – informally known as black boxes -- along with a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS).

NTSB Releases Video Of Kobe Bryant Calabasas Crash Investigation
The National Transportation Safety Board investigates the wreckage of the helicopter crash which killed Lakers star Kobe Bryant and eight others on Jan. 26, 2020, in Calabasas, Calf. (Credit: NTSB)

The Sikorsky S-76B that crashed Sunday morning had none of that equipment.

However, Homendy said, it was unclear if the TAWS system would have prevented the crash, stating that it "could have helped to provide information to the pilot on what terrain the pilot was flying in."

On "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" Tuesday, the comedian also discussed the black box issue. In September of 1974, a 10-year-old Colbert lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash in North Carolina.

"I think it's crazy that helicopters don't have black box recorders," Colbert said..."When a helicopter goes down we don't know how to improve the helicopter. We don't know how to improve the flying of the pilots so this won't happen again in the future."

Under FAA regulations, almost all planes are required to have black boxes, but not helicopters.

"Perhaps someone could take action to make sure there are some ways to record what is happening in these helicopters so it doesn't happen as often," Colbert added.

At around 9:45 a.m. Sunday, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter carrying Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, two other teen girls and four parents crashed in Calabasas amid foggy conditions.

The helicopter had departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County and was bound for Camarillo, with the passengers on board heading to the 41-year-old Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where he was set to coach Gianna in a tournament game.

"But to do nothing after helicopters go down like this, and we lose greats like this, and we lose anybody whose family is now in agony and in ignorance of what happened to their loved one, I think is unconscionable," Colbert said. "So I hope the NTSB will do something to improve the conditions for helicopter pilots and the information they can get if a tragedy like this happens."

Also on Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office officially indentified the remaining victims in the crash — basketball players Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Peyton Chester, mom Keri Altobelli and coach Christina Mauser.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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