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Kobe Bryant’s death throws spotlight on crash-warning system

A fan places a candle at a memorial for Kobe Bryant near Staples Center, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A fan places a candle at a memorial for Kobe Bryant near Staples Center, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)(GIM)
Published: Jan. 29, 2020 at 7:38 AM CST
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The helicopter crash that killed nine people including Kobe Bryant has renewed the debate over the merits of a cockpit warning system designed to prevent crashes.

The chopper that the basketball star was riding in did not have such an instrument, known as a Terrain Awareness and Warning System, or TAWS, and it was not required to have one, despite a push by the National Transportation Safety Board over a decade ago to make such equipment mandatory.

Investigators say the system would not necessarily have saved Bryant’s life, and regulators and pilots alike have expressed concern that the instrument could trigger too many false alarms that could prove distracting.

Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board says the pilot slammed into a foggy hillside outside Los Angeles Sunday after a minute-long, high-speed plunge and it’s unclear yet whether he was still in control of the craft.

Federal investigators will pore over the wreckage in an effort to determine why the helicopter plunged about 1,000 feet in about a minute on Sunday.

The foggy conditions were considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.

A federal investigator says the pilot told air traffic controllers in his last message that he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer before the aircraft plunged more than 1,000 feet into a hillside. The helicopter crashed Sunday morning after requesting special permission to fly through heavy fog.

The last of the bodies and the wreckage were removed on Tuesday.

Fingerprints were used to confirm the identity of Bryant, 41; Zobayan, 50; John Altobelli, 56; and Sarah Chester, 45.

Though the the coroner has not identified the five other victims in the crash, relatives and acquaintances have identified them as Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; Chester’s 13-year-old daughter Payton; Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa; and Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s team.

Tributes continue for Kobe Bryant

The Los Angeles Lakers returned to practice with a light shooting workout Wednesday. Coach Frank Vogel says the Lakers are all deeply saddened by the tragedy.

The Los Angeles Kings honored Kobe Bryant and the other victims of Sunday’s helicopter crash with a pregame video tribute and a moment of silence. The NHL game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night was the first sporting event at Staples Center since the tragedy.

Kings players all showed up to Staples Center wearing Bryant jerseys. Longtime Kings broadcaster Bob Miller spoke to the crowd before a tribute video aired on the scoreboards.

In Philadelphia, Joel Embiid paid tribute to Kobe Bryant by wearing one of his jersey numbers.

Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie and Orlando’s Terrence Ross are showing their respect by no longer doing so. Boston’s Kemba Walker is considering such a change.

And coaches around the league left their snazzy leather shoes in the office Tuesday night, wearing Bryant’s signature sneakers instead.

The games are going on. So, too, is the grief after the fiery helicopter crash in Southern California on Sunday that took the life of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others. And the tributes are continuing as well.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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