CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS LA) — The helicopter that crashed near Los Angeles and took the lives of NBA icon Kobe Bryant, has 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others was once owned by the State of Illinois.
The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was built in 1991, and was purchased by the State of Illinois in 2007 when Rod Blagojevich was governor, according database Helis.com.
The helicopter was used for trips for the governor and other VIPs until it was sold in 2015 at an Illinois state auction.
At that time, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner announced the sale of five surplus aircraft to bring in more than $2.5 million. The other aircraft sold at that auction were small Cessna and Beechcraft airplanes.
The Helis database indicated that the helicopter ended up in the hands of Island Express Holding Corp. in Van Nuys, California in September 2015, and in Long Beach, California in 2019.
Bryant and his daughter were among nine killed when helicopter went down in Calabasas, California around 11:45 a.m. Chicago time Sunday.
Other victims identified in the crash included Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, John’s wife, and daughter Allyssa.
Reports indicated that the flight had originated out of Long Beach. During an afternoon news conference, officials said they would not be identifying the other victims until next of kin had been notified.
KCBS-TV, CBS 2 Los Angeles Sports Director Jim Hill, who knew Bryant personally, said he was an avid flyer who enjoyed flying on helicopters.
“This was his normal mode of transportation. Most of the time, he flew from Newport Beach,” Hill said.
“We all know that Kobe loved flying on helicopters,” said Hill. “The cause of the crash has not been confirmed but there is some speculation that weather had something to do with it.” The National Weather Service reported that while winds were light, visibility was low in the area.
Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific scorer with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic, AP reported. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown, the wire service said.