More than once, Kylie Jenner, 22, sat in the same helicopter that Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, spent their final moments in before a fatal crash in Calabasas on Jan. 26. The Kylie Cosmetics CEO revealed this scary connection while paying tribute to the NBA champ and Gianna a day after the tragedy on her Instagram Story. Kylie shared photos of all nine victims in the crash, writing, “rest in peace.. and prayers to these families…i still can’t believe this. that was the helicopter i would fly on from time to time with that pilot, Ara. he was such a nice man.” Ara Zobayan, the pilot whom Kylie was referring to, died alongside Kobe, Gianna and all the six other passengers on-board Kobe’s private Sikorsky S-76B helicopter.
“Hold your loved ones close,” Kylie added in her touching tribute. One of Kylie’s own loved ones is her niece, Dream Kardashian, who celebrated her third birthday in the same helicopter just two and a half months before its fatal crash. At the time, Kylie had shared a photo of Dream in-front of the same Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, its N72EX tail number/registration visible (confirming that was the same helicopter Kobe crashed in). In Nov. 2019, Kylie had ridden with Dream for “her first helicopter ride,” Kylie wrote in an Instagram Story at the time.
A day before Kylie mourned Kobe and the other victims’ deaths, the nine people — the pilot included — had left John Wayne Airport in Orange County in the morning of Jan. 25. The helicopter was headed towards Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park, where Gianna was set to play in a tournament that Kobe would be coaching at. The conditions were foggy — so much so, Los Angeles’ law enforcement choppers were grounded that morning. However, Kobe’s pilot was granted special visual flight rules to pursue flying through the fog, according to audio exchanged between Ara and air traffic controllers that was obtained by The Washington Post. The helicopter crashed in Calabasas and started a brushfire, although the official cause of the crash is still being investigated.
The other passengers on the flight included Gianna’s basketball teammate Alyssa Altobelli, Alyssa’s parents John Altobelli and Keri Altobelli, the team’s top assistant coach Christina Mauser, and a mother and daughter pair, Sarah Chester and Payton Chester, 13. Kobe is survived by his wife of nearly 19 years, Vanessa Bryant, and their three other daughters: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 mos.