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Kobe Bryant was famous for using his Sikorsky S-76 private helicopter, a type that has a strong safety record

dslotnick@businessinsider.com (David Slotnick)

 

Basketball icon Kobe Bryant was killed in a crash of his private helicopter on Sunday in Calabasas, California.

Video: Airplane Safety Features You Didn't Know Existed

Pepperdine Graphic, Pepperdine University's student-run newspaper, published a tweet on Sunday that showed what appeared to be an image of the helicopter and smoke in the distance.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said five people died.

"It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Kobe Bryant and four others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas," Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub said in a press conference.

Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, was also killed in the accident. The helicopter was said to be traveling to Bryant's Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball practice when the crash occurred. The identities of the other three victims was not immediately known.

Bryant's use of the private helicopter became well known as the LA Lakers great used it to beat Los Angeles traffic and even help teammates get to doctor appointments.

According to a GQ profile in 2010, Kobe would use the helicopter to fly from his home in Orange County to Lakers home games and elsewhere. Kobe reportedly took advantage of the helicopter to help stay fit for games:

"But sexy as it might seem, Bryant says the helicopter is just another tool for maintaining his body. It's no different than his weights or his whirlpool tubs or his custom-made Nikes. Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can't sit in a car for two hours. The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court."

Bryant's helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76, a type which has had a a relatively good safety record since its first flight in 1977.

In statements, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would investigate the crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board said it had a team responding to the crash site.

Here is what we know about Bryant's helicopter and the Sikorsky S-76.

NBA legend Kobe Bryant was killed on Sunday when his private helicopter crashed.

Kobe Bryant Memorial

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty ImagesBryant's private helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76, an aircraft type which first flew in 1977.

Sikorsky S-76

Hulton Archive via Getty ImagesHis specific helicopter — registration N72EX — was built in 1991. According to FAA records, it was owned by Island Express Holding Corp., a private helicopter transport company. It was not immediately clear whether Bryant would charter the helicopter or leased it full-time.

Kobe Bryant Sikorsky S-76

Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesThe S-76 was first designed as a medium helicopter for corporate transportation, especially within the oil industry, where executives were traveling between land and off-shore drilling platforms.

Sikorsky S-76

Kalle Parkkinen/ReutersThe first Sikorsky helicopter was designed for commercial use but took design inspiration from the UH-60 Black Hawk military helicopter.

UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter

Daniel Brown/Business InsiderIt's found a niche in numerous roles over the years, including medical transportation.

Sikorsky S-76

Danny Johnston/Associated PressThe helicopter Bryant was in was a S-76B variant, which was first introduced in 1987.

Sikorsky S-76

Holger Hollemann/picture alliance/Getty ImagesThe S-76 features twin turboshaft engines which drive one four-bladed main rotor and a four-bladed tail rotor.

Sikorsky S-76

Associated PressIt's relatively larger and more complex than many other civilian helicopters — which has contributed to a strong safety record over its 40-plus years in service.

Sikorsky S-76

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty ImagesIts safety record has been largely attributed to its twin-turbine design, along with more rigorous training standards than some other civilian models, and the fact that it's frequently flown by two pilots, unlike most light helicopters.

Sikorsky S-76

Business Wire via Getty Images

Source: FlightSafety International

Still, there have been several prolific incidents, most recently a 2017 crash in Turkey, which appeared to be caused by a combination of poor visibility and pilot error.

Turkey Helicopter Crash Sikorsky S-76

Metin Pala/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesThe S-76 has been a successful helicopter for corporate and VIP transportation. Its large cabin is especially geared towards comfortable configurations, and coupled with its relative safety and strong performance parameters. Even Queen Elizabeth II has been flown in a Sikorsky S-76.

Queen Elizabeth Sikorsky S-76

Stefan Rousseau/ReutersIt was not immediately clear what caused Bryant's helicopter to crash.

Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash Sikorsky S-76

Gene Blevins/Reuters

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