Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: Company suspends operations


Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: Company suspends operations

Island Express Helicopters, the company that owns the helicopter that crashed Sunday, is “suspending all flight service for operational reasons,” two company representatives told CNN on Thursday.

The representatives declined to provide any other details about the suspension.

In addition to charter flights, Island Express provides regular helicopter service to and from Catalina Island.

“All services (regular and charter) were immediately suspended following the tragic accident on Sunday, January 26,” the company said in a statement Thursday.

“The shock of the accident affected all staff, and management decided that service would be suspended until such time as it was deemed appropriate for staff and customers.”

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the crash and whether the pilot should have been granted special permission to fly in foggy conditions Sunday morning.

FAA records reviewed by CNN reveal Island Express was certified only for flights using visual flight rules.

Visual flight rules require pilots to stay clear of clouds and in good visibility while using both visual and instrument navigation.

Investigators are also looking into whether a safety system that federal authorities recommended years ago — one that alerts pilots when they might hit terrain — could have prevented the tragedy.

Aircraft descended at 2,000 feet per minute

The helicopter missed the top of the hill by 20 to 30 feet, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Preliminary information suggests the helicopter descended rapidly before it crashed, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said.

“The descent rate for the helicopter was over 2,000 feet a minute,” Homendy said. “This is a pretty steep descent at high speed.”

A public memorial service for NBA legend Kobe Bryant and the other eight helicopter crash victims is not likely to take place soon, two sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the memorial is “probably not for at least two weeks, maybe longer,” a source with the Los Angeles Exposition Park sports complex said.

Another source inside Los Angeles’ sports venues described the timing as “hearing weeks.”

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