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Bryant pilot trying to clear fog before chopper crash: probe

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Emergency personnel work at the helicopter crash site that claimed the life of former NBA great Kobe Bryant on January 27, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Bryant, 41, his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven others perished in the accident yesterday. (Josh Lefkowitz / Getty Images / AFP)

The pilot in the helicopter crash that claimed the life of NBA legend Kobe Bryant told air traffic controllers he was trying to climb out of heavy fog just before the doomed chopper slammed into a hillside, preliminary findings showed on Wednesday.

Pilot Ara Zobayan radioed to air traffic control that he was climbing to 4,000 feet soon before the helicopter crashed near Calabasas on January 26.

Los Angeles Lakers icon Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six other people on board died in the accident.

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Zobayan’s doomed attempts to pilot the aircraft out of trouble were revealed in 1,700 pages of investigative documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday.

The NTSB, which is continuing to investigate the crash, stressed the “public docket” was not a final report “nor does it contain analysis, findings, recommendations, or probable cause determinations.”

“As such, no conclusions about how or why the crash occurred should be drawn from the information within the docket,” the NTSB said.

“Analysis, findings, recommendations, and probable cause determinations related to the crash will be issued by the NTSB in a final report at a later date.”

A partial transcript of communications between Zobayan and air traffic control in the final moments before the crash was among the documents released on Wednesday.

“Uh, we climbing to four thousand,” Zobayan says in the transcript.

“And then what ya gonna do when ya get to altitude?” a controller replies in the transcript.

No further communication from the aircraft was heard after that point.

Previous disclosures from investigators have revealed the helicopter plunged several hundred feet before the crash, when Zobayan had been attempting to climb out of the heavy fog.

Bryant won five NBA championships for the Los Angeles Lakers during 20 NBA seasons. He was the NBA’s most valuable player in 2007-08, a 15-time all-NBA selection, and an 18-time all-star.

He was twice named MVP of the NBA finals and was the all-star game MVP four times.

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Ara ZobayanKobe BryantNBA
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