The heartbreaking reality of Kobe Bryant’s tragic death continues to send shockwaves around the world.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people were killed when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in Southern California on Sunday.
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It was a common mode of transport for the five-time NBA champion, who preferred the time-saving benefits of travelling via the sky to battling Los Angeles' notorious traffic on the road.
Among other reasons, the father-of-four chose to travel in a helicopter so he could spend more time with his family.
Tragically, it was because of a helicopter that Bryant and daughter Gianna were so cruelly ripped away from loved ones, well before their time.
The NBA legend's use of a private helicopter became legendary, with Bryant using it to go to and from his home in Orange County to practice and Lakers home matches.
According to a GQ profile from 2010, Bryant also swore by the helicopter as a way to keep himself in the best physical state during his career.
“Sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body," the article stated.
"It’s no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can’t sit in a car for two hours.
"The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Centre feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court.”
Bryant revealed on The Corp with A-Rod and Big Cat in December 2018 that his family was central in his decision to start using helicopters.
The consummate professional had a gruelling routine that included early morning gym sessions, before he'd return home to take his girls to school.
“That’s what I did every morning,” Bryant said.
The NBA legend would travel to downtown LA for practice but took comfort in being able to pick the kids up in the afternoon and partake in “after school activities, all that fun stuff”.
“But then traffic started getting really, really bad and I was sitting in traffic and wound up missing things like the school play,” Bryant said.
“I had to figure out a way I could still train and focus on the craft (of basketball), but also not compromise family time.
“That’s when I started looking into helicopters to get up and back (from training).
“My wife was like, ‘I can pick them up’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no, I want to do that’. Because you have road trips (away from home) and times where you don’t see your kids, you know, so every chance I get to spend time with them — even if it’s 20 minutes in the car — I want that.”
Bryant and his wife Vanessa did apparently make a pact that they would never travel in the helicopter together.
Weather conditions at centre of investigation into crash
A growing investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others aboard a Sikorsky S-76B will include the FBI and focus primarily on weather conditions and potential mechanical issues.
Because of fog and poor visibility, the Los Angeles police and county sheriff's departments had grounded their helicopters.
Aviation officials told the Los Angeles Times a twin-engine failure in the S-76B was highly unlikely.
Bryant's helicopter departed Orange County at 9:06 a.m. PST. The helicopter crashed in heavy fog, according to witness accounts.
The helicopter transporting Bryant on Sunday is the same model in use during two fatal crashes in Louisiana in 2009 and 2013. The National Transportation Safety Board released information on the investigations and found a fractured rotor blade to be the cause of the 2013 crash that killed three on board. The 2009 crash was caused by a collision with a red-tailed hawk, shattering the helicopter windshield and causing fuel monitors to fail.
It is standard practice for the FBI to assist the Federal Aviation Administration in crash investigations.
Bryant's helicopter was built in 1991 and had no other incident reports on file with either organization.
A recovery effort at the crash site is expected to take several days. A 5-mile no-fly zone was set up by the FAA.