The NTSB preliminary report on the crash that claimed the lives of former basketball superstar Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, along with seven other people, is out. The details, including the photographs, are shocking. But to people who have witnessed, studied and reported upon such tragedies, they are not unexpected. The magnitude of the physical forces associated with the crashes of aircraft at high speed and out of control into terrain defies easy understanding. So the efforts of people—the women and men who investigate these disasters—including those of our own NTSB—the greatest accident investigative body in the world—should never go unrecognized. As is the case with many governmental organizations, the NTSB has limited resources, which they allocate as best as they can. Sometimes they don’t do enough. Sometimes, as when an airplane simply vanishes, there’s not enough evidence to do anything but put together timetables and engage in a high-tech educated guessing.
Such was not the case with the flight of N72EX—the Sikorsky S-76 twin-turboshaft, nine-passenger helicopter carrying nine human beings, including one of the most well-known people on the planet—the resources were simply there. People wanted answers, and it is not in the NTSB’s DNA not to provide them. Nor is it outside of their abilities to target expenditures selectively, as they have with high-profile accident investigations through the decades.