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Monday, February 24, 2020

Ara Zobayan identified as pilot in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash

While Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna have understandably led the headlines from Sunday’s devastating helicopter crash, it is important to keep in mind that seven other people also lost their lives in the tragedy. Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the aircraft, was among them.

Zobayan has been identified as the man who was flying the helicopter at the time it crashed in hilly terrain in Calabasas. In addition to being a pilot, Zobayan was also a flight instructor. Upon learning of his death, many friends and former students of Zobayan’s took to social media to share positive memories of the 50-year-old. Darren Kemp, one of Zobayan’s former students, told the Los Angeles Times that Bryant considered Zobayan his most trusted pilot.

“He doesn’t let anyone else fly him around but Ara,” Kemp said.

Kemp said Zobayan had an impact on in his personal life as well as with his flying, as Zobayan also helped Kemp through his divorce and convinced him not to give up on flight school.

Sunday’s crash is still under investigation, but it has been confirmed that Zobayan was flying under special VFR, or special visual flight rules. Those rules allow helicopters to fly in conditions where visibility is an issue, which appears to have been the case with the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas. KTLA’s Christina Pascucci, who is also a licensed pilot, says public records show Zobayan was rated to fly in those types of conditions.

Zobayan also appeared on an episode of “Celebrity Wife Swap” back in 2013. Fellow pilot Lorenzo Lamas teased the episode on Facebook at the time by telling people to “Tune in to ABC this Sunday 8pm to see Ara and me fly Andy Dick’s baby momma around on ‘Celebrity Wife Swap’ lol.” Lamas was friends with Zobayan, and Lamas was included in a photo that accompanied a Facebook tribute written by Jared Joachim, another pilot and friend of Zobayan’s.

“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,” Joachim wrote. “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.”

Bryant traveled by helicopter frequently, and the explanation he gave for doing so is now gut-wrenching. If Zobayan was the pilot Kobe trusted to fly him and his loved ones around, you can bet there was a good reason for it.

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Other victims of the helicopter crash:
John Altobelli, junior college baseball coach, also died in helicopter crash
Christina Mauser, girls’ basketball coach, among the helicopter crash victims

Tributes to Kobe:
Dallas Mavericks retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey
Video: Raptors, Spurs start game with amazing tribute to Kobe Bryant
Shaq posts heartfelt tribute to Kobe Bryant
Michael Jordan releases statement on death of ‘little brother’ Kobe Bryant
Video: Doc Rivers breaks down crying talking about Kobe Bryant
Phil Jackson calls Kobe Bryant ‘a chosen one’ in statement on his death
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issues statement on death of Kobe Bryant
Video: Dwyane Wade posts emotional message reacting to Kobe Bryant’s death
Kendrick Perkins extends olive branch to Kevin Durant after Kobe Bryant’s death
Video: Emotional Mike Breen sums up NBA world’s emotions about Kobe Bryant’s death
Trae Young’s huge game was full of Kobe Bryant-related statistical coincidences

More coverage:
Media errors, rumors, poor judgment run rampant in reporting of Kobe Bryant news
Kobe Bryant checked in on Shaq’s son Shareef morning of helicopter crash
No, Rick Fox did not die in helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Gianna Bryant
Lakers fans start memorial to Kobe Bryant outside Staples Center
Kobe Bryant’s last tweet was congratulating LeBron James on passing him
Sports world stunned over Kobe Bryant news
Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash – dead at 41

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