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Kobe Bryant helicopter crash puts spotlight on Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky S-76B, investigations underway

Sikorsky S-76 Helicopter. (James - Gloucester Airport/Flickr)

The maker of the helicopter that crashed and killed former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant on Sunday pledged to investigate the incident.

Defense contractor and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin said it would probe the crash of its Sikorsky S-76B helicopter in Calabasas, California, near Malibu, which killed nine people.

The S-76 series helicopter debuted in the 1970s. Sikorsky has made several major upgrades to it since then, including the most recent S76-D model. The company has sold than 875 worldwide, including 103 units of the S-76B, Sikorsky spokesperson Callie Ferrari said in an email.

There were no immediate indications that defects or systems failures caused the crash.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Christopher O’Neil said in an email that the agency “won’t speculate about” the cause of the incident. An NTSB team of investigators is being deployed to California.

The S-76 series helicopter was “originally built for the rigorous demands of the offs?hore oil & gas” industries,” but “its capabilities fit naturally into other market segments,” including executive transportation and emergency services, Lockheed Martin says on its website.

Lockheed Martin acquired Stratford, Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft in 2015. At the time, Sikorsky had nearly 15,000 employees in 11 countries. All five branches of the U.S. military use its helicopters in some capacity.

“We extend our sincerest condolences to all those affected by today’s Sikorsky S-76B accident in Calabasas, California,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement. “We have been in contact with the NTSB and stand ready to provide assistance and support to the investigative authorities and our customer.”

The company added, “Safety is our top priority; if there are any actionable findings from the investigation, we will inform our S-76 customers.”

In addition to the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration is also launching an investigation of the crash, FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said in an email to USA TODAY.

Kenitzer said the crash occurred “under unknown circumstances.”


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