Ara Zobayan is dead after a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Jan. 26. Ara was flying the helicopter when it crashed amidst foggy conditions around 9:45 a.m. local time. The helicopter burst into flames once it hit the ground, killing Ara and all eight passengers, which included Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant. Details of what caused the crash are still being fleshed out, but there’s no doubt that the accident is beyond devastating. Social media has been flooded with tributes, not only for Kobe, but for all nine victims of this terrible tragedy.
1. Ara was flying Kobe’s private helicopter during the crash. The FAA confirmed that the helicopter involved in the Jan. 26 crash was a Sikorsky S-76, with the registration N72EX — the same number that could be seen on Kobe’s private helicopter in previous photos. A friend of Ara’s confirmed on Twitter that the pilot was close with the Bryant family. “Working for the aviation business has allowed me to meet some pretty amazing people and pilots,” Twitter user @_bella113_ wrote. “Ara was one of them. Always so nice, talkative and especially attentive when it came to Kobe and his family. I’m heartbroken.”
2. He was a flying instructor. “He taught aspiring heli pilots to fly and was very much loved in the aviation community,” KTLA reporter, Christina Pascucci, tweeted after Ara was identified as a victim of the crash.
3. He was an instrument-rated pilot. Records show that Ara was an ‘instrument-rated pilot,’ which means he’s qualified to fly in foggy conditions. This level of qualification requires training and instruction beyond that of a standard private pilot.
4. Ara was on an episode of ‘Celebrity Wife Swap’. Ara can be seen in a July 2013 episode of Celebrity Wife Swap, which featured Andy Dick and Lorenzo Lamas. “Tune into ABC this Sunday 8pm to see Ara and me fly Andy Dick’s baby momma around on Celebrity Wife Swap lol,” Lorenzo wrote on Facebook at the time.
5. Who were the other victims of the crash? In addition to Ara, Gianna and Kobe, six other people lost their lives in the Jan. 26 crash. The other victims were Gianna’s teammates, Payton Chester and Alyssa Altobelli, Payton’s mom, Sarah Chester, Alyssa’s parents, John and Keri Altobelli, and basketball coach, Christina Mauser. The group was flying to Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy for a game when the crash happened.