The bodies of Kobe Bryant and 8 others killed in helicopter crash have been released to their families

Nine people died in the Calabasas helicopter crash, including basketball
legend Kobe Bryant.
Nine people died in the Calabasas helicopter crash, including basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

The bodies of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people killed in a helicopter crash last month in Calabasas, California, have been released to their families, according to the website for the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner.

Last week, the coroner's office announced that it had officially identified all nine victims killed in the January 26 crash.

In addition to Bryant, 41, and his daughter, 13, the crash claimed the lives of Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and the helicopter's pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50.

The cause of death for all nine victims was determined to be blunt force trauma, and the manner of death was certified as accident, according to the coroner's office.

The group was expected at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a basketball game on the day the helicopter crashed about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

911 caller said the aircraft was 'thick in clouds'

On Monday, the Los Angeles County Fire Department released audio from five 911 calls it received at the time of the deadly crash.

Callers described hearing a boom and seeing flames.

"It went over my head," one caller told dispatchers. "It's thick in clouds. I heard a pop and it immediately stop."

Another caller said he did not see the helicopter, but heard a crash.

"I'm walking on the trail, I could hear the plane. I think it was in the clouds," the caller said. "We couldn't see it and then we just heard a boom and a dead sound and then I could see the flames."

Other callers, farther away from the crash site, said they saw a hill engulfed in fire following the impact.

"A helicopter crashed into a mountain. We heard it and now I'm looking at the flames," a caller said. "We're looking at the flames right now on the hill."

The investigation

The National Transportation Safety Board is trying to determine the cause of the crash and has collected evidence at the scene. The agency said it is investigating weather as a key factor and has asked for photos showing weather conditions at the time.

Preliminary information suggests the helicopter descended rapidly before it crashed, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said.

The aircraft missed the top of the hill by 20 to 30 feet after it rapidly descended.

"The descent rate for the helicopter was over 2,000 feet a minute," Homendy said. "This is a pretty steep descent at high speed."

A preliminary report on the crash from the NTSB is expected in the next few days but the final report won’t be available for at least a year, Homendy said.