The engines of the helicopter that crashed last month, killing Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, did not show any evidence of having failed, investigators have said.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it found nothing to suggest there had been a “catastrophic internal failure” before the aircraft carrying the basketball legend fell to the ground in fog in Calabasas, California.
“Viewable sections of the engines showed no evidence of an uncontained or catastrophic internal failure,” the NTSB said in an interim report.
A witness who heard the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter in the mist, saw it descend fast and then reported it “started to roll to the left such that he caught a glimpse of its belly” soon before the crash, the NTSB added.
Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among a group of nine people heading to a girls’ basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy.
Gianna’s team was coached by her father and was playing in the competition.
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A witness who said he saw the helicopter for one to two seconds before it hit the steep hillside told investigators it was flying forward and downward through the fog before it crashed.
The pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50, had more than 8,200 hours of flight time and was qualified to fly using just instruments, allowing him to fly at night and through clouds.
Weather conditions including heavy clouds, fog and limited visibility reported in the vicinity of the crash were clearly a problem for Mr Zobayan, as audio from air traffic control and 911 calls have confirmed.
The report did not rule out that mechanical issues might have contributed, but since a tree branch at the crash site was cut, investigators believe the engines were working and rotors turning at the time of impact.
The update did not contain any detail on the cause of the crash and a final report isn’t expected for at least a year.
Kobe Bryant won five championships in his 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, retiring as the third leading scorer in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
He also won an Oscar for his short animated film Dear Basketball.
Fans have attended countless memorials for him and tributes have been paid at NBA matches across the country and at other sports fixtures.
The remains of all the victims were released to their families on Monday.
Their deaths have been ruled an accident by blunt trauma by the Los Angeles County coroner.