Resident who witnessed Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash tells what he saw

Los Angeles Times reporter offers firsthand account after hearing explosion from inside home

I was sitting at my dining room table Sunday morning when I heard the whir of helicopter blades.

It was a foggy morning, with visibility at less than 60 feet. I looked toward a nearby window in my Calabasas home and heard a massive boom, followed by a few seconds of silence. Then a fireball erupted on a hillside off Las Virgenes Road.

I had no way of knowing the helicopter that had plunged into the Santa Monica Mountains hillside was carrying basketball legend Kobe Bryant, as well as his young daughter Gianna, and this crash would send fans around the nation into mourning.

Credit: f.duckett

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Credit: f.duckett

It was 9:52 a.m., and I ventured out onto the street. Visibility was poor.

Using binoculars, I was able to see the aircraft had been torn apart and was on fire. It turned out the aircraft was a helicopter, and it was scattered in many pieces on the hillside.

In the ensuing minutes, a stream of firefighters arrived to tackle the fire. I was able to make it closer to the crash site, where I saw debris strewn across the hillside, still smoldering.

Closer to the scene, I also found others who had also witnessed the crash.

Jerry Kocharian, 62, said he was standing outside the Church in the Canyon drinking coffee when he heard a helicopter that was flying unusually low and seeming to struggle.

“It wasn't sounding right,” he said, “and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy.”

NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed on Jan. 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash. They were in a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter which crashed near Los Angeles. The helicopter is made by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., which also produces the American military's Black Hawk. Sikorsky is based in Stratford, Conn., and owned by Lockheed Martin. The S-76 can carry up to 12 people and costs about $13 million. Its top speed is 178 mph and it has a range of 472 miles. The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk has been d

The craft vanished into the sheet of fog, and then Kocharian heard the boom and saw a fireball.

“No one could survive that,” he said.

Later, the L.A. Times confirmed that two of those on board were Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.