Investigat­ors working to find the cause of crash

- John Bacon Contributi­ng: Cheri Carlson, Ventura County Star

Multiple federal agencies will join California officials in trying to determine why a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and four other people slammed into a hillside near Malibu, killing everyone aboard.

Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Tony Imbrenda, speaking soon after the crash, said an investigat­ion had begun but it was too early to determine the cause of the crash.

“The wreckage is still pretty hot up there,” Imbrenda said. “We still have some fire activity on the hill.”

Rebeca Salcedo, 29, and her cousins were in Calabasas for a birthday breakfast when they saw a helicopter that seemed to be flying low. They soon heard sirens and hoped everyone would be OK, she said.

They continued brunch but then saw news reports on their phones that Bryant was on board and had died.

“We all just started crying,” she said. “He’s just a great basketball player, you know. We grew up with him.”

Low clouds and fog were present in the area at the time of the crash, according to the Weather Channel. It was not immediatel­y clear whether the weather played a role in the crash.

Imbrenda identified the helicopter as a Sikorsky S-76. It burst into flames when it hit, and firefighte­rs doused a quarter-acre brush fire. The Federal Aviation Administra­tion and the National Transporta­tion Safety Board said they would investigat­e.

Sikorsky is a Lockheed Martin company. On the Sikorsky website, the S-76 is described as “well-known for its work in VIP transporta­tion and utility work” and for its dependabil­ity.

More than 178 customers operate S-76 helicopter­s in a corporate or VIP role, Sikorksy says, adding that 10 countries “rely on the S-76 for the Head of State mission.” The helicopter­s have more than 7.4 million hours of safe, successful flight, the website says.

The helicopter crashed in Calabasas, a city of about 25,000 people in the Santa Monica Mountains about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years and won five NBA championsh­ips.

 ?? SOURCE Google Earth,©HERE; GRAPHIC Karl Gelles/USA TODAY ??

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