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Newly released 911 calls highlight weather issues in Kobe Bryant crash

Authorities have released the 911 calls that were made just moments after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others last Sunday in Calabasas, Calif.

The calls, which were published by several Los Angeles news stations, highlight how bad the weather was that morning.

“I could hear this plane, as if it was in the clouds but couldn’t see it,” one caller says, via KTLA. “Then we just heard a boom and a dead sound, and I could see the flames.”

The caller was asked what was on fire, and responded, “The hill. But whatever crashed into the hill is also on fire … I think it was an airplane. A small plane.”

One caller was shopping at a grocery store just a quarter mile from the crash.

“A helicopter crashed into a mountain, we heard it, and now I’m looking at the flames,” they said. “We’re looking at the flames right now on the hills.”

Other calls described being able to hear the helicopter, or the impact, but not see it.

"It went over my head. It's thick in clouds. And then I heard a pop and it immediately stopped," another caller said, via KABC. "If this guys doesn't have night vision, I mean, he was, he's completely IFR."

Authorities have released the 911 calls that were made immediately after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant. (REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

The helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76B, was reportedly carrying Bryant, Gianna, and several of her teammates and their parents on the way to a travel basketball game. The weather was bad that day, with foggy conditions and low cloud cover, and flight data shows the craft circling for more than 10 minutes while it waited for clearance.

Pilot Ara Zobayan was experienced and certified to teach in limited-visibility conditions, but the helicopter was not equipped with a terrain alert system that could have told him when he was nearing the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash (and could be for several months). While a mechanical or instrument failure could be to blame, flight data, expert analysis, and the 911 calls indicate that the weather played a role in the accident.

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