PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It has been less than 24 hours since the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California killed nine people -- including NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.
People are trying to make sense out of why a helicopter with an outstanding safety record could crash and kill everyone on board.
"As former accident investigator, one of the biggest things we have to look at is -- we have to get the full picture before we make any assessment."
Those are the words of Fred Reeb, a flight instructor who spent four years working as an accident investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration.
That work in the hills above Malibu is just starting. Investigators are trying to determine what caused the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter to crash Sunday morning.
Reeb knows that helicopter very well: "It's a fast helicopter. It has a good payload to it. Twin engines. Flies in all sorts of weather. Great aircraft. Really a great helicopter."
He also knows the pilot would not have had the controls if he didn't have thousands of hours in the cockpit because of the unique challenges of flying in and around Los Angeles. He was just out there last week.
"Southern California sits there right by the water, so you have all that marine fog, all that marine activity there," he says.
"You've got the heating of the city. You have the canyons. You have the desert on the other side of the mountains. All those factors of weather have a profound effect on the weather out there."
And that could have had a lot to do with why the helicopter went down. Many wonder why it took off in the first place if the weather was suspect.
Reeb knows there could be many explanations for that question.
"It could have been a nice clear morning, but as you head up toward the hills there, the hilltops were all fogged in and the weather report at Burbank was showing weather that was less than optimal for flight operations," he says.
Now crews have the arduous task of trying to put the pieces together as millions anxiously wait to find out what happened up in that canyon.
"The accident investigation is not to assign blame," says Reeb. "It says what tools, what process can we put into effect so that future incidents or accidents cannot occur."
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