The horrific images of investigators running through the remains of the Kobe Bryant helicopter highlight the full extent of the fatal impact of the accident.
Only a small section of the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter appears intact, while the remains burned by fire and ash mounds are scattered in and around a crater on the California slope where it fell on Sunday morning.
There are also tires and mechanisms inside and around the centralized remains, and the helicopter parts are said to have extended to the length of a soccer field.
Researchers at the National Transportation Safety Board, who wear surgical masks while inspecting the remains, look closely, while images of a drone above put the crash site in perspective.
A researcher is seen leaning over the mounds of remains and is then seen inspecting a piece on the perimeter of the site.
In addition to Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, three other families linked to the Mamba Sports Academy perished on their way to a women’s basketball tournament: husband and wife John and Keri Altobelli with their 13-year-old daughter. Alyssa Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter Payton; and basketball coach and mom Christina Mauser.
The ninth victim was the pilot, Ara Zobayan, a former experienced flight instructor who was qualified for instruments or qualified to fly in the fog, according to multiple media accounts.
Los Angeles County forensic investigators, who work together with the NTSB aviation inspectors, confirmed Monday that all bodies have been recovered.
The remains were “removed from the scene of the accident and transported to the department’s forensic science center” for examination and identification, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said in a statement.
“On Sunday afternoon, the staff of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) of the department recovered three bodies of the remains of the helicopter located in block 4200 of Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas,” he continued.
“The next day, the search continued for the other six occupants of the helicopter. Soon after, their bodies were located, removed from the scene of the accident and transported to the Department of Forensic Sciences of the department.
“Currently, researchers are actively working to identify the deceased. In addition, body exams are being performed.
“The Department of Forensic Medicine will provide immediate updates on the names of the deceased as soon as they are officially verified and their relatives are notified.”
Bryant’s body has been formally identified today, after investigators used fingerprints to identify the 41-year-old man, along with two other men and a woman, the Los Angeles County coroner said in a statement.
The body of Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, 13, has not been identified.
“Investigators are still working to identify the remaining five (bodies),” the coroner added.
It is believed that researchers are currently focusing on weather conditions, trying to establish whether foggy conditions were the cause of the tragic incident, or if they could have been a mechanical failure with the plane.
The company that owns the helicopter, Island Express Helicopters, said the pilot had more than 10 years of experience and has recorded more than 8,000 flight hours.
Reports have also emerged claiming that the Bryant and Co flying helicopter collapsed almost 500 feet in just 15 seconds before crashing into a Los Angeles slope.
It is said that the helicopter caught fire after falling, as emergency services fought in vain to save those on board.
The audio between the pilot and the air traffic controllers reveals that he was given permission to fly under special rules of visual flight or SVFR, despite the treacherous fog.
But he was forced to spin for a quarter of an hour while the controllers cleared the airspace.
A thick fog enveloped the flight path and conditions continued to worsen in the minutes after takeoff at 9.06am, with Mr. Zobayan circling over Burbank from 9.20am.
Staying in constant contact with the air traffic control at Burbank airport, the helicopter asked the Van Nuys Tower if it could turn southwest at 9.39 a.m., which was approved.
Mr. Zobayan had been granted special permission to navigate the difficult conditions with the naked eye without relying on the instruments, and after the maneuver confirmed that he had recovered the flight images.
Then, the helicopter began to accentuate at 1,500 feet before descending again at 9.42am to allow the aircraft to be displayed at the correct frequency according to the requests of air traffic controllers.
However, there was no response from the pilot for two minutes and 40 seconds before the helicopter fell to the ground, the tower said: “You are still too low for the flight that follows at this time.”
Instead of continuing to descend, Mr. Zobayan quickly climbed to around 2,125 feet, potentially seeking to get rid of bad weather, before falling from the sky and crashing while traveling at 175 mph.
Flight data indicates that the helicopter fell to 425 feet in its last 15 seconds before crashing on a hillside in Calabasas at 9.45 a.m.
Bryant regularly used his Sikorsky S-76 helicopter to travel to and from games at the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers Stadium.