Kobe Bryant.
  • Basketball icon Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Calabasas, California. He was 41.
  • Bryant was with eight others in his private helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76B, a model with a strong safety record and a reputation for serving as a reliable VIP and corporate transport.
  • Bryant's use of the helicopter to avoid traffic between his Orange County home and Los Angeles was famous, with Bryant offering the helicopter to help teammates get to doctors' appointments.
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Basketball icon Kobe Bryant was killed in a crash of his private helicopter on Sunday in Calabasas, California.

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.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Bryant's private helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76, an aircraft type which first flew in 1977.

Hulton Archive via Getty Images

His 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.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The 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.

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

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It's found a niche in numerous roles over the years, including medical transportation.

The helicopter Bryant was in was a S-76B variant, which was first introduced in 1987.

Holger Hollemann/picture alliance/Getty Images

The S-76 features twin turboshaft engines which drive one four-bladed main rotor and a four-bladed tail rotor.

It'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.

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Its 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.

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.

Metin Pala/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The 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.

It was not immediately clear what caused Bryant's helicopter to crash.

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