CALABASAS, CALIF– Officials in Los Angeles said late Sunday that dense fog in Southern California likely played a role in the deadly crash in Calabasas that claimed the lives of nine people, including NBA great Kobe Bryant and his teenage daughter.
The Los Angeles Times reported that several experts pointed to the poor flying conditions in the area and said it will likely play a key part in the investigation. Dense fog covered the area and continued to hang low on the Santa Monica mountain range hours after the crash.
The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
“The weather conditions did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” Josh Rubenstein, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department, told the paper. He pointed out that the department’s Air Support Division did not fly helicopters early on due to the conditions.
Around the time of the crash, L.A. Times reporter Richard Winton reported that the mountains were “fogged in.”
“It [didn’t] sound right and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as It was so foggy,” Jerry Kocharain told the Los Angeles Times.
“You could hear it – thump, thump, thump – and then a loud thud,” Pastor Bob Bjerkaas, who was teaching Sunday school at the Church in the Canyons, told USA Today. His wife ran out and saw a cloud of gray billowing from the mountains, the report said. Bjerkaas said it was “dense.”
“My guess is he was flying low,” he said.
According to TMZ Sports and The New York Times, Bryant’s daughter Gianna was also killed in the crash. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also confirmed the death of Bryant and his daughter in a statement.
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna,” Silver said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office said in a Sunday afternoon press conference there were nine people listed on the helicopter’s manifest and all were believed to be dead. Police did not confirm any of the identities of the victims.
Orange Coast College said its head baseball coach, John Altobelli, was also among those killed. A family member told CNN Altobelli’s daughter and wife were also aboard the helicopter.
Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at the Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar, was also identified as a victim, according to KTLA. Matthew Mauser, her husband, took to Facebook to announce the loss.
“My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much,” he wrote in a post.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos, Travis Fedschun and the Associated Press contributed to this report