The pilot who died in a helicopter crash along with Kobe Bryant and seven others leaves behind a girlfriend of 11 years and her two children who he treated like his own, a close friend has revealed to DailyMail.com.
The friend said Tessie ‘Tess’ Davidson, 47, is ‘not good right now’ and that she may ‘never be over’ the death of her chopper pilot partner Ara Zobayan.
Close friend Jesse Clark, who runs a construction company in Medford, Oregon, told DailyMail.com that he had known Zobayan, 50, since the pilot began seeing Davidson around 2009, and that the pilot ‘loved Tess beyond measure.’
‘We’re still mourning. Ara was a good friend of mine,’ he said. ‘Tess will never be over it. That was the impact he had in her life.
‘He was an amazing guy. Other than a piece of jewelry that says they’re married, they were everything that a married couple is.
‘She has two boys. Ara was every bit an adoptive father to them. It’s hitting them and the whole family hard. Anybody that Ara touched in their life, I guarantee that they are suffering too.’
Ara Zobayan, 50, was the pilot manning the helicopter that Kobe Bryant and seven others were in when it crashed and killed everyone on board on Sunday. He leaves behind his girlfriend of 11 years Tessie Davidson, 47, (pictured together) and her two children, who he treated like his own, close friend revealed to DailyMail.com
Friend Jesse Clark said he had known Zobayan, 50, since the pilot began seeing Davidson around 2009, and that the pilot ‘loved Tess beyond measure’. He added: ‘She has two boys. Ara was every bit an adoptive father to them. It’s hitting them and the whole family hard’. Pictured: Davidson and her two sons from a previous relationship
Zobayan died in the helicopter crash on Sunday in Calabasas, California, along with Kobe Bryant, Kobe’s daughter Gianna and six other passengers
Davidson, who used to live near Clark in Oregon, shared an apartment in Huntington Beach with Zobayan and works in the Emergency Transport Rapid Response Team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Clark said Davidson enjoyed joining Zobayan as a passenger on some of his flights.
The construction firm owner, 37, said although the pilot was not a celebrity like Kobe, he was a big figure in the lives of those who knew him.
Jesse Clark (pictured) said his wife, Deborah, has flown from Oregon to LA to look after their bereaved friend, who was struggling to cope after the death of her long-time partner
‘Kobe deserves the praise that he got. He was an American icon. And Ara’s job was private. What he did with Kobe, flying Kobe around, that was his business and his job was to keep quiet about it,’ he said.
‘Nobody really knows Ara, but a lot of people in this world missed out. Ara’s no different than Kobe. He was a put a smile on your face kind of guy.
‘He wasn’t a father, but he was every bit of an example of a man I would hope to be at his age. I mean he’s got about 15 years on me, and what he was to my kids, my family, the way he let us into his life, he’s the kind of guy you just wish the world was infected with.’
Clark revealed that his wife, Deborah, has flown from Oregon to Los Angeles to look after their bereaved friend, who was struggling to cope after the death of her long-time partner.
‘He loved Tess beyond measure. That’s the saddest part,’ he said. ‘She’s not good right now. She’s with my wife. I’m in Oregon, she’s in LA… It’s hard to piece everything together right now.’
The 37-year-old, who runs Medford firm Straight Arrow Construction, added that he hopes the federal investigation into Sunday’s helicopter crash will give him and Davidson some answers.
‘I’m still waiting for the closure on that part. That’s the part I really wish that we could just help her to see the incident and what happened, so she can put the pieces together. Because if the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] investigation takes 18 months she’ll be putting pieces together for a while.’
Clark said: ‘We’re still mourning. Ara was a good friend of mine. Tess will never be over it. That was the impact he had in her life. He was an amazing guy. Other than a piece of jewelry that says they’re married, they were everything that a married couple is.’ Pictured: Ara and Tess
Federal Aviation Administration records show Zobayan was a certified flight instructor, and at a press conference on Monday NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said that he had logged 8,200 hours of flight time as of July.
Described by aviation firm Island Express as their ‘chief pilot’ after working for them for 10 years, Zobayan regularly flew Kobe and his family from an airport near his home in Orange County to a Los Angeles County airport near his 13-year-old daughter Gianna’s basketball practice at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.
Flight records show the pilot had flown the same trip from John Wayne Airport to Camarillo Airport more than 20 times.
But despite the 50-year-old’s certification to fly helicopters with complex aviation instruments, the dense, low fog on Sunday morning forced him to navigate by sight across Calabasas.
Data from the Sikorsky S-76B chopper shows a rapid climb and then fast descent, ending when the chopper slammed into the hillside at about 1,400 feet at a speed of 161 knots.
Jerry Kidrick, a retired Army colonel who flew helicopters in Iraq and now teaches at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, said flying using just normal vision without instruments can be extremely disorienting.
Zobayan’s friend said he was confident the probe would leave the pilot free of criticism. ‘I know he was every bit as professional as the next guy,’ said Clark. ‘I don’t think anything was jeopardized by a choice he made, I know that’s not a factor. I just wish I had more answers.
This graphic shows the latter part of the helicopter’s journey and the changes in altitude and speed ahead of the crash
Investigators were seen working the helicopter crash site on Monday in Calabasas, California
‘It’s one of the most dangerous conditions you can be in,’ Kidrick said. ‘Oftentimes, your body is telling you something different than what the instruments are telling you.’
Randy Waldman, a helicopter flight instructor who lives in Los Angeles, said the radar tracking data he’s seen leads him to believe the pilot got confused in the fog and went into a fatal dive.
The aircraft’s speed ‘means he was completely out of control and in a dive,’ Waldman said.
‘Once you get disoriented your body senses completely tell you the wrong thing. You have no idea which way is up or down,’ he said.
‘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,’ Waldman said.
Homendy said the NTSB investigation would be ‘broad’, and would take into account ‘man, machine and the environment’.
Zobayan’s friend said he was confident the probe would leave the pilot free of criticism.
‘I know he was every bit as professional as the next guy,’ said Clark. ‘I don’t think anything was jeopardized by a choice he made, I know that’s not a factor. I just wish I had more answers.’