Sikorsky S-76B crashes in California – A Sikorsky S-76B operated by Island Express Holding Corp. crashed in the hilly area near Calabasas, California claiming the lives of nine people including basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

CRASH SITE. Actual photos of the S-76B crash site following the accident. Photo from Christina House - Los Angeles Times.

The helicopter departed at around 9:06 am local time from Orange County (SNA) headed for El Monte (EMT), based on initial information from the flight-tracking website FlightRadar24. The last signal from the aircraft was received 9:45 am local time.

Witnesses and local media reports confirm that the aircraft crashed and burst into flames while it was flying in foggy weather conditions. The first responders were from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Before the aircraft lost signal, it reported a calibrated altitude of 1,700 feet with a speed of 153 knots. It is worth noting that the final data reported vertical speed (the rate of ascent or descent) at -4,224 feet per minute.

Actual recordings from air traffic control conversations between SoCal Approach and the pilots of N72EX revealed that the controller on-duty warned the helicopter was flying too low to be radar detected for flight following.

An official investigation is currently being carried out by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) upon the notification of the crash. As of writing, there is still no information regarding the possible causes of the crash.

Sikorsky Helicopters released a statement in social media condoling to those who were affected from the crash. The manufacturer reassured that "[s]afety is our top priority; if there are any actionable findings from the investigation, we will inform our S-76 customers."

N72EX was a 1991-built Sikorsky S-76B helicopter configured for luxury VIP transport. In 2007, it was acquired by the State of Illinois as N761LL. The helicopter was acquired by Island Express in 2015.