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Kobe Bryant dies in chopper crash

Air crash investigators are expected to arrive in California to take the lead on the investigation into the cause of the helicopter crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.

At the same time, Lockheed Martin, the aerospace manufacturer that made the Sikorsky S-76 series helicopter that crashed, will reportedly launch a probe of its own.

"Safety is our top priority; if there are any actionable findings from the investigation, we will inform our S-76 customers," the company tweeted.

A National Transportation Safety Board team and the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to arrive in California to lead the crash probe.

Local law enforcement is already on the scene of the crash at a hillside in Calabasas, California.

In a press conference on Sunday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva declined to identify the victims, saying their next of kin had not been notified.

Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli, has also been identified as one of the victims.

In a statement, OCC President Angelica Suarez said, "We have lost a member of our OCC family, and our hearts are broken. Coach Altobelli was a giant on our campus -- a beloved teacher, coach, colleague and friend. This is a tremendous loss for our campus community." It was later announced that his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were also among the fatalities.

Air traffic control audio, posted on LiveATC.net, revealed communications between the pilot and the tower as the helicopter navigated around the Van Nuys airport.

The last communication that can be heard is the controller telling the pilot "You're still too low." Otherwise, the audio does not indicate anything amiss with the flight. Low clouds and fog were present in the area, according to the Weather Channel. It's unclear if that impacted visibility and was a factor in the crash.

The crash was reported at 9.47am on Saturday, said L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby. About 56 fire personnel were dispatched to the scene where the crash had ignited a brush fire that firefighters put out.

Bryant's death has led to an outpouring of condolences and expressions of sympathy from across the worlds of sports, politics, and entertainment.

He was considered to be one of the greatest basketball players in a Hall of Fame career that included winning five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bryant was also an Oscar winner, picking up his statue for the short film, "Dear Basketball," directed by Glen Keane, which was based on a letter that the basketball player wrote.

© AP 2020