CALABASAS — The pilot of the doomed helicopter that crashed and killed Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter and several others was identified as Ara Zobayan, who, according to records was an instrument-rated pilot — meaning he was qualified to fly in fog. Friends were mourning him on social media Sunday night, saying that he taught aspiring helicopter pilots to fly and that he was loved within the aviation community.
He was also confirmed as the pilot in a series of tweets by a friend in the business, using the Twitter name Bella.
“Rest In Peace Ara. One of the sweetest pilots I’ve ever have had the pleasure to meet and converse with while working in the aviation business,” she tweeted, calling him “the sweetest, the funniest… he was purely amazing.”
“Working for the aviation business has allowed me to meet some pretty amazing people and pilots. Ara was definitely one of them,” she wrote in another tweet. “Always so nice, talkative and especially attentive when it came to Kobe and his family. I’m heart broken.”
Ara Zobayan was flying the helicopter when it crashed amidst foggy conditions around 9:45 a.m. local time.
The helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 a.m., records show. The helicopter burst into flames once it hit the ground, killing Ara and all eight passengers, which included Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant. Details of what caused the crash are still being fleshed out, but there’s no doubt that the accident is beyond devastating. Social media has been flooded with tributes, not only for Kobe, but for all nine victims of this terrible tragedy.