(CNN)In his final transmission, the pilot of a helicopter that crashed, killing nine people including NBA legend Kobe Bryant, told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer, the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday.
When air traffic control asked the pilot what he planned to do, there was no reply, NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy told reporters. The last radar contact was around 9:45 a.m. (12:45 p.m. ET) Sunday, she said.
Radar data indicated the helicopter climbed 2,300 feet and began a left descending turn, she said.
The NTSB, which is investigating the cause of the crash, detailed the helicopter’s final moments before it crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California, under foggy conditions. Visibility was so low Sunday morning that the Los Angeles Police Department grounded its helicopters, department spokesman Josh Rubenstein said.
The crash impact broke the helicopter into pieces, creating a debris field stretching about 500 to 600 feet, according to Homendy.
“There is (an) impact area on one of the hills and a piece of the tail is down the hill, on the left side of the hill,” she said. “The fuselage is over on the other side of that hill, and then the main rotor is about 100 yards beyond that.”
The life and legacy of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant
When asked about any chance for survival, Homendy said: “It was a pretty devastating accident scene.”
Bryant, 41, and the other passengers were headed to Thousand Oaks for a basketball game, where Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was expected to play and Bryant was expected to coach. Gianna and two teammates were among the victims.
The pilot’s final correspondence
Homendy said initial information indicates the helicopter was flying under visual flight rules from John Wayne Airport, in Orange County, to just southeast of Burbank Airport.
Around Burbank, the pilot requested to fly under special visual flight rules, Homendy said. An SVFR clearance allows a pilot to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for regular visual flight rules (VFR).
Pilots can request SVFR clearance before takeoff or during the flight, especially if conditions suddenly change, CNN transportation analyst Peter Goelz said.