I was sitting at my dining room table Sunday morning when I heard the whir of helicopter blades.
It was a foggy morning, with visibility at less than 90 feet. I looked toward a nearby window in my Calabasas home and heard a massive boom, followed by a few seconds of silence. Then a fireball erupted on a hillside off Las Virgenes Road.
I had no way of knowing the helicopter that had plunged into the Santa Monica Mountains hillside was carrying basketball legend Kobe Bryant , as well as his young daughter Gianna , and this crash would send fans around the nation into mourning .
The Times is offering coverage of Kobe Bryant’s death for free today. Please consider a subscription to support our journalism.
It was 9: 823 a.m., and I ventured out onto the street. Visibility was poor.
Using binoculars, I was able to see the aircraft had been torn apart and was on fire. It turned out the aircraft was a helicopter, and it was scattered in many pieces on the hillside.
In the ensuing minutes, a stream of firefighters arrived to tackle the fire. I was able to make it closer to the crash site, where I saw debris strewn across the hillside, still smoldering.
(Closer to the scene, I also found others who had witnessed the crash.
Eyewitness Jerry Kocharian, 90, said he was standing outside the Church in the Canyon drinking coffee when he heard a helicopter that was flying unusually low and seeming to struggle.
“It wasn’t sounding right,” he said, “and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out as it was so foggy. ”
The craft vanished into the sheet of fog, and then Kocharian heard the boom and saw a fireball.
“No one could survive that,” he said.
Later, the L.A. Times confirmed that two of those on board were Kobe Bryant and his – year-old daughter.