Federal investigators have yet to determine the cause of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; however, they have since announced new findings that rule out engine failure.
According to an updated report by the National Transportation Safety Board, officials concluded that the rotors of the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter were turning at the time of impact in Calabasas, California. The NTSB pointed to a two-inch diameter tree branch that was recovered near the crash site. The branch was cleanly sliced in three locations, indicating the helicopter blades were rotating right before it hit the hillside.
Per the report: "Approximately 95 percent of the main rotor blades were recovered. All four blades exhibited similar damage consisting of midspan bending, pocket separation, blade tip separation, and leading-edge indentations and scuffing."
Records also confirmed there were no safety notices for the S-76 helicopter, and all inspections were up to date. The NTSB also stated that pilot Ara Zobayan—who was among the nine people killed in the crash—had more than 8,200 hours of flight experience and logged 1,250 total hours in the S-76.
It's also been reported that the helicopter did not have a flight data recorder, a.k.a. "black box," nor was it required to be equipped with one. The NTSB confirmed investigators have recovered a number of personal devices from the wreckage, and will examine the electronics for relevant data.
"Our investigators have already developed a substantial amount of evidence about the circumstances of this tragic crash," NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said in the update. "And we are confident that we will be able to determine its cause as well as any factors that contributed to it so we can make safety recommendations to prevent accidents like this from occurring again."
All six other passengers of S-76 died in the Jan. 26 crash. They were John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, and Christina Mauser.
In the weeks since the tragedy, people around the world have continued to mourn the victims' deaths. On Wednesday, Bryant's wife, Vanessa Bryant, shared photos and videos from a tribute ceremony at Gianna's school. Teachers, coaches, and students shared their favorite memories of Gianna, before officially retiring her jersey number.
On Feb. 24, a public memorial for Kobe and Gianna is set to be held at the Staples Center.