The pilot in the helicopter crash that killed Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant violated weather-related flight rules in 2015, according to Federal Aviation Administration enforcement records that The Associated Press obtained.
On May 11, 2015, Ara Zobayan was flying north near Los Angeles International Airport when he requested permission from a control tower to fly into the airport's airspace, the report says. However, Zobayan was told the weather conditions didn't meet minimum standards for flying with visual flight rules (VFR), otherwise known as flying by sight.
After being denied permission to "maintain special VFR" - a specific clearance to operate under reduced visibility - Zobayan replied he could "maintain VFR" but entered the airspace during the conversation despite not receiving approval.
The FAA subsequently investigated Zobayan, ruling that he didn't adequately review and prepare for the weather conditions at the L.A. airport. However, the report adds he cooperated fully with the investigation, saying "there are no signs that this incident is a trend with Mr. Zobayan."
At the time of the violation, Zobayan was working with charter service Island Express Helicopters Inc. The same company employed him during the crash last month that killed Zobayan, Bryant, the NBA legend's 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and six other passengers during a flight destined for a youth basketball game.
Investigators are still trying to determine what went wrong during the Jan. 26 accident. In Zobayan's last message to air traffic controllers, he told them he was attempting a climb to avoid a cloud layer, Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board said last month, according to ESPN's Paula Lavigne. The helicopter then lost contact with the control tower before falling over 1,000 feet into the side of a hill.
A memorial will be held for the victims at the Staples Center on Monday.