Heartbreaking photos show basketball legend Kobe Bryant enjoying a family trip to Disneyland just a few weeks before the tragic helicopter crash that killed him and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
Kobe, 41, and wife Vanessa, 37, were pictured with Gianna and two of their other daughters, Natalia, 17, and Bianka, three, as they soaked up the atmosphere at the theme park.
Their fourth daughter Capri was just four months old at the time and didn’t join them on the day trip in October.
Kobe Bryant was pictured at Disneyland with daughter Bianka, three, on his shoulders and his arms around wife Vanessa (left) and daughter Gianna, 13 (second right). Eldest daughter Natalia, 17, is on the right of the snap taken just weeks before the tragic helicopter crash
The family strolled around the theme park soaking up the atmosphere in October. Kobe’s eldest daughter Natalia, 17, leads the way with wife Vanessa following holding four-year-old Bianka’s hand and Gianna, 13, bringing up the rear
Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter, Gianna, 13, were killed when helicopter crashed on a hillside on Sunday. They are pictured with the rest of their family; Kobe leaves behind wife Vanessa, daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, three, seven-month-old Capri
Kobe and his family meeting Minnie Mouse at Disneyland on a family day out just weeks before the basketball legend was killed in a helicopter crash with daughter Gianna, 13 (third left)
In one poignant snap they are seen meeting Minnie Mouse and in another group shot Kobe has little Bianka on his shoulders and his arms round Vanessa and Gianna.
The beaming family are said to have been frequent visitors to Disneyland – often up to four times a month – with Kobe and Vanessa sometimes going there by themselves to soak up the atmosphere and reminisce.
Indeed, Kobe took Vanessa there on November 28 to celebrate when they first met 20 years ago.
Kobe Bryant posted a moving tribute to his wife Vanessa in November to mark the 20th anniversary of when they met
The basketball legend posted a photo of himself with wife Vanessa taken when he took her on a date to Disneyland
Fellow visitors at Disneyland took snaps of the basketball legend and his family looking relaxed as they strolled around
He posted a moving tribute on Instagram saying: ‘On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant.
‘I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses).’
He met Vanessa in 1999 when she 17 and was working as a background model on a music video and they got engaged six months later and they got married in 2001.
Kobe and his family were such regular visitors to Disneyland over the years that fans today shared their memories and photos on Twitter describing the times they’d spotted him there, with many saying he always had time for people.
The family are said to have visited Disneyland up to four times a month last year and Kobe even took his wife there on a date
Kobe Bryant loved taking his wife Vanessa on dates to Disneyland and posted this snap in February last year. Heartbroken fans have added new comments to the Instagram post since he died in a helicopter crash on Sunday
The former Los Angeles Lakers star and Gianna, also a keen basketball player, had been on their way to the Mamba Academy for basketball practice when the chopper crashed at around 9.30am on Sunday.
They died along with all seven others on board as the S-76 Sikorsky helicopter encountered thick fog and crashed into hills of Las Virgenes Canyon, which is home to celebrities including the Kardashians.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Kerry, and their daughter Alyssa were also among the dead.
The flying conditions had been poor and the LAPD had decided to ground all its own choppers due to the fog.
Kobe Bryant has been a massive Disneyland fan for years. In this photo from 2009, he is surrounded by Disney characters during a parade to celebrate the LA Lakers winning the NBA Championships
Fans like this one shared photos of Kobe Bryant on Twitter saying they’d spotted him at Disneyland, one of his favorite places
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant poses with Goofy at Disneyland in 2010 after the Lakers again win the NBA Championships
Kobe Bryant dunks hoops in front of Disneyland Castle as cheering kids and Mickey and Minnie Mouse look on in 2006
Grieving fans shared memories of spotting Kobe Bryant at Disneyland over the years saying he always had time for people
Kobe Bryant rides the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland with four-year-old LA Lakers fan Jonathan Guerrero and his father David, of Pomona, California. They were among thousands of fans at a parade celebrating their NBA Champsionships win
Basketball fans shared photos on Twitter of times they had seen Kobe Bryant at Disneyland with his family
Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa at Disneyland with their daughters Natalia and Gianna in 2010 celebrating the Lakers’ NBA championship win with Goofy
Kobe Bryant was a regular visitor to Disneyland with his family and fans shared their memories of seeing him there on Twitter
Dramatic pictures have revealed how the helicopter exploded in a fireball after it plunged 1,000 feet into a hillside.
Photos taken in the aftermath of the crash show the flaming wreckage of the chopper after the pilot had told air traffic controllers he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer.
The witness who took the photos said he saw ‘helicopter parts flying everywhere’ after the aircraft emerged from ‘out of the fog’ and exploded in a ‘huge fireball’.
Dramatic pictures have revealed how Kobe Bryant’s helicopter exploded into a fireball after it plunged 1,000 feet into a hillside on Sunday, killing the NBA legend and eight others
Pilot Ara Zobayan had asked for and received special clearance to fly in heavy fog just minutes before the crash and was flying at 1,400 feet when he went south and then west, an accident investigator said Monday.
They also revealed there was no black box on board but instead an iPad which was used for flight itinerary. The crash site in Calabasas, California is being actively patrolled for looters by officers on horseback.
Pilot Zobayan asked for air traffic controllers to provide ‘flight following’ radar assistance but was told the craft was too low for that assistance, Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board said.
About four minutes later, ‘the pilot advised they were climbing to avoid a cloud layer,’ she said. ‘When ATC asked what the pilot planned to do, there was no reply. Radar data indicates the helicopter climbed to 2,300 feet and then began a left descending turn.’ The wreckage was found at 1,085 feet.
Photos taken in the aftermath of the crash show the flaming wreckage of the chopper after the pilot had told air traffic controllers he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer
Passers-by spotted the fire engulfing the crashed helicopter on Sunday morning after it came down in thick fog
Homendy said last radar contact was around 9.45am. Two minutes later, someone on the ground called 911 to report the crash. All nine people on board the aircraft, including the former NBA superstar and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died.
NTSB investigators went to the crash site in Calabasas on Monday to collect evidence. ‘The debris field is pretty extensive,’ Homendy said. ‘A piece of the tail is down the hill,’ she said. ‘The fuselage is on the other side of that hill. And then the main rotor is about 100 yards beyond that.’
The witness who saw the helicopter come down, and took the pictures of the flaming wreckage, told The Sun that he had seen the aircraft crash into the hillside just 200 feet from where he was standing.
‘One of the helicopter doors landed about 10 to 15 feet away from us. Helicopter parts were flying everywhere. There was very little left of the helicopter.’
The man, who had been mountain biking with a friend, went to the crash site to see if they could help but found there were no survivors.
They did not realize that Kobe Bryant was involved until they were back at the foot of the hill, he said.
Pilot of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter was qualified to fly in fog and friends say he was ‘not one to make mistakes’
Ara Zobayan, 50, was a licensed commercial helicopter pilot of 12 years, certified flight instructor of two years and a ground instructor of 11 years. Zobayan was friends with actor turned pilot Lorenzo Lamas (pictured together in 2013), appearing with him on an episode of Celebrity Wife Swap along with Andy Dick
By Cheyenne Roundtree For DailyMail.com
Ara Zobayan, the pilot of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter, was qualified to fly in fog, as friends of the beloved instructor said he was ‘not one to make mistakes’ and was always ‘attentive’ to the NBA legend and his family.
Zobayan was flying the helicopter carrying Bryant, the star’s daughter Gianna, 13, and six others when the Sikorsky S-76 crashed in Calabasas, California and caught fire, killing everyone on board on Sunday morning.
He was told he was ‘too low’ as he flew through thick fog and was unable to get clearance to land at Burbank Airport because the weather conditions were too poor, according to reports. Fifteen minutes later, the helicopter crashed.
The 50-year-old was a licensed commercial helicopter pilot of 12 years, certified flight instructor of two years and a ground instructor of 11 years, according to federal aviation records.
He was also instrument rated, which means he was qualified to fly in fog.
Tributes to Zobayan, of Huntington Beach, California, poured in on Sunday, as friends and colleagues said he was ‘nice, talkative and especially attentive when it came to Kobe and his family’.
Zobayan’s friend Jared Yochim wrote: ‘Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man. He was not your typical egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are.
‘Ara was a man that always remained cool, calm and collected. As more people that knew Ara open up about him, you’ll only hear words like professional, calculated and loving. He was always good for a laugh.
‘The loss is not mine, but a community really. Ara impacted so many people and only in a positive way. ‘
He added: ‘He was as good as they came and not one to make mistakes.’
Although it’s not clear when Zobayan started flying Bryant, the Lakers star said in a resurfaced interview that he began taking helicopters because traffic in Los Angeles was so bad it was causing him to miss family activities.
Bryant said in the 2018 interview with Alex Rodriguez and Big Cat: ‘I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family time.’
Some experts suggested that the pilot might have gotten disoriented because of fog but Homendy said investigating teams would look at everything from the pilot’s history to the engines. ‘We look at man, machine and the environment,’ she said. ‘And weather is just a small portion of that.’
Randy Waldman, a helicopter flight instructor who teaches at the nearby Van Nuys airport, said a disoriented pilot might have only moments to avoid a fatal dive.
‘If you’re flying visually, if you get caught in a situation where you can’t see out the windshield, the life expectancy of the pilot and the aircraft is maybe 10, 15 seconds, and it happens all the time, and it’s really a shame,’ Waldman said.
Some experts raised questions of whether the helicopter should have even been flying. The weather was so foggy that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff’s department had grounded their own choppers.
Audio reveals Zobayan, requested to fly under special visual flight rules (SVFR). Under an SVFR clearance, pilots are allowed to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for visual flight rules (VFR).
Special VFR clearances are only issued when cloud ceilings are below 1,000 feet above ground level. Flying that low to the ground can be very disorienting and risky, and it’s possible that the pilot became disoriented due to the visibility conditions when the helicopter appeared to veer off its path above US Route 101.
The pilot of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter told air traffic controllers in his last radio message that he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer before plunging more than 1,000 feet into a hillside, an accident investigator said Monday
Heart-wrenching footage shows Kobe Bryant’s daughter Gianna, 13, practicing her basketball skills in heels weeks before she died alongside her father
Heartbreaking footage captured young Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant showing off basketball skills she learned from father and basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, in heels – weeks before the two died in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday.
Shared in an Instagram video in December, 13-year-old Gianna can be seen scoring baskets wearing heels and a dress while her teammates practice around her on a court.
She’s able to seamlessly dribble the basketball behind her back and through her legs without missing a single step.
Kobe and Gianna are survived by his wife Vanessa and their three other daughters – Natalia, Bianca and Capri, who was born last summer.
Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant, 13, impressively scored baskets and practiced her basketball skills in heels just weeks before she and father Kobe Bryant would die in a helicopter crash
Gianna easily dribbles the ball between her legs and behind her back as she struts across the basketball court in a video shared on Instagram in December