Pilot of helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and his daughter was warned ‘you’re too low’

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Kobe Bryant’s helicopter pilot was told he was ‘too low’ as he flew through thick fog moments before slamming into a hillside in a crash which killed all nine on board.

The NBA legend and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died along with seven others yesterday when the Sikorsky S-76 came down in Calabasas, California, and immediately caught fire.

Flight data shows the aircraft appearing to get into trouble near the LA Zoo, where it circled for 15 minutes amid foggy weather which had forced Los Angeles police to ground their fleet.

In air traffic control audio which was recorded shortly before the crash, the pilot of the former Lakers star’s helicopter is told by a controller that ‘you’re still too low level’ to be tracked by radar.

This did not appear to be a sign of distress, because the helicopter was actually ascending at the time and the controller was referring to the technical difficulty with reading data rather than warning of an imminent crash.

LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein confirmed that the force’s Air Support Division was grounded yesterday, adding: ‘The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying.’

The cause of the crash is under investigation but the helicopter is known to have turned south towards a mountainous area at around 9.40am, before contacting the control tower at Burbank Airport shortly before 10am and crashing five minutes later.

One eyewitness said they ‘didn’t hear any anomalies with the engine’, while a pilot who had previously flown Bryant on the very same helicopter said the aircraft was in ‘fantastic condition’.

Bryant was believed to be heading to the Mamba Academy he founded in Thousand Oaks to watch his basketball prodigy daughter Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant, who was flying with her team-mates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester.

Alyssa and Payton also died in the crash alongside Al
yssa’s parents John and Keri Altobelli, Payton’s mother Sarah Chester, girls’ basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan.

Bryant’s death has sent America into mourning today with tributes pouring in from the worlds of sport, politics and entertainment after the NBA legend was killed at the age of just 41.

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Emmanuel
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