CHICAGO (CBS) — The State of Illinois previously owned the helicopter that crashed near Los Angeles this past weekend – taking the lives of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight others.
CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey took a deeper look Monday in the helicopter’s roots with the State of Illinois.
Before it was used by Bryant, the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was used to transport Illinois governors. It was also involved in a recent scandal involving the Illinois Department of Transportation.
“Looking at this, I think I sat there,” said former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn as he examined a printout showing the interior of the helicopter.
Quinn remembers the helicopter before it was painted black with a gold Nike swoosh.
“I was in the window, so I could look and see things,” he said.
Built in 1991, the VIP chopper was owned by the state from 2007 to 2015.
Quinn vividly remembers riding in the back cabin at least once as lieutenant governor under Rod Blagojevich, and then again as governor, surveying flood damages across the state.
Quinn said the state tried to sell the helicopter in 2014, but didn’t get a high enough bid.
“The state had tough times and we had to economize, and part of it was selling the helicopter,” he said.
It was eventually sold in 2015 for more than $500,000.
Quinn said the chopper had one dedicated pilot for years who knew the ins and outs by heart.
The Sikorsky-76B was maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
And according to a 2017 Office of Executive Inspector General Report, it was involved in an embarrassing scandal for the state.
An IDOT official was fired for allowing an unlicensed pilot fly state helicopters. And you guessed it – the now-infamous Sikorsky-76B was one of them.
The report said the helicopter is one of two that may have been involved in a small accident in 2007 that damaged the tail.
Meanwhile, one more thing sticks out to Quinn – the number of people that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s police say where onboard the helicopter when it crashed Sunday.
There were a total of nine.
“It seems to be, especially looking at the pictures now, it would have been pretty cramped – and everybody should have a seat belt,” Quinn said.
Meanwhile at the United Center Monday, fans came in for the Bulls’ game against the San Antonio Spurs – which was set to start at 7 p.m. Chalk tributes to Bryant covered the sidewalk.
Bryant was killed along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others when their helicopter crashed into a hillside in dense fog in Calabasas, California. Bryant’s sudden death at age 41 touched off an outpouring of grief for a star whose celebrity transcended basketball.
Also killed were John Altobelli – the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa – and his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser – basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach; and Sarah Chester, along with her middle school-aged daughter Payton, who was a teammate of Gianna’s.
The pilot, who also died in the crash, was identified as Arya Zobayan.
The passengers were on their way to a basketball game when the chopper went down. The helicopter was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.
The helicopter’s flight path shows it going from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley and then hovering over the Glendale area as it waited for clearance to travel through the Valley to Calabasas. The tracking ends at the crash site in Calabasas.
Zobayan was qualified to fly in bad weather conditions, according to FAA records cited by The Washington Post. He was also qualified to teach others how to fly in bad weather.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CBS News contributed to this report.)