The pilot flying Kobe Bryant and seven others, including his daughter, to a youth basketball tournament did not have alcohol or drugs in his system, an autopsy has revealed. All nine sustained immediately fatal injuries when their helicopter slammed into a hillside outside Los Angeles on 26 January.
The report by the Los Angeles County coroner's office provide a clinical look at just how brutal the crash was, describing broken bones, dismembered body parts and a stench of fuel on what remained of clothing that burned.
A celebrity figure across the globe, Bryant had to be identified by his fingerprints after his body was found in the dirt outside the wreckage of the chopper.
The graphic report made it clear: Bryant and the passengers were dead in an instant due to blunt trauma caused by the crash.
"These injuries are rapidly if not instantly fatal," wrote Juan Carrillo, senior deputy medical examiner, in Bryant's report.
The crash that killed the 41-year-old retired Los Angeles Lakers NBA star, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, pilot Ara Zobayan and the others is considered accidental.
Bryant was headed from his residence in Orange County to daughter's tournament at his Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks on the morning of 26 January. The group, including one of his daughter's coaches and two of her teammates, encountered thick fog in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.
Zobayan, an experienced pilot who flew Bryant often, climbed sharply and had nearly succeeded in breaking through the clouds when the chopper took an abrupt left turn and plunged into the grassy, oak-studded hills below.
When it struck the ground, the helicopter was flying at about 184 mph (296 kmph) and descending at a rate of more than 4,000 feet per minute. The impact caused a crater and scattered debris over an area the size of a football field. Flames engulfed the wreckage, but burns on the bodies were found to have occurred after the death.
Bryant's body was found on one side of the wreckage, and his daughter's was found in a ravine on the opposite side.
The autopsy noted a tattoo of a crown on Bryan't right shoulder, above where his wife's name, Vanessa, was imprinted. On the lower right arm were the names of three of his four daughters: Bianka Bella, Natalia Diamante and Gianna Maria-Onore, the daughter who died with him.
The only drug in Bryant's system was methylphenidate, which is sold under the brand name Ritalin and used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.
The National Transportation Safety Board has not concluded what caused the crash but said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76. A final report is not expected for months.
Bryant and his daughter were honoured at a star-studded public memorial on 24 February at Staples Center, with 20,000 in attendance at the arena where Bryant spent most of his two-decade career with the Lakers. The date 24/2 corresponded with the No. 24 jersey he wore and the No 2 worn by Gianna.
The same day, Vanessa filed a lengthy lawsuit alleging that Zobayan was careless and negligent to fly in the fog and should have aborted the flight. She also has filed a claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department after deputies allegedly shared unauthorized photos of the crash site.
(With inputs from AP)
Updated Date: May 16, 2020 13:02:45 IST