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Crash-warning device might not have saved Kobe Bryant’s helicopter

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The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant didn’t have a recommended warning system to alert the pilot he was too close to land, but it’s not clear it would have averted the crash that killed nine when the aircraft plummeted toward a fog-shrouded hillside, U.S. regulators and experts say.

Pilot Ara Zobayan had been climbing out of the clouds when the aircraft banked left and began a sudden and terrifying 366-metre descent that lasted nearly a minute.

“This is a pretty steep descent at high speed,” Jennifer Homendy of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday. “We know that this was a high-energy impact crash.”

The aircraft was intact when it hit the ground, but the impact spread debris over more than 150 metres. Remains of the final victims were recovered Tuesday, and so far the remains of Bryant, Zobayan and two other passengers have been identified using fingerprints.

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Determining what caused the crash will take months, but investigators may again recommend that to avoid future crashes helicopters carrying six or more passenger seats be equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) that would have sounded an alarm if the aircraft was in danger of crashing.

FAA called for warning system

The agency made that recommendation after a similar helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76A carrying workers to an offshore drilling ship, crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas, killing all 10 people on board in 2004.

The NTSB concluded if TAWS had been installed, pilots would have been warned in time to prevent hitting the water. The board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require the warning systems. Ten years later, the FAA eventually required such systems on air ambulances, but not other helicopters.

 

An NTSB investigator examines the wreckage of Sunday’s helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif., that killed former NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. (James Anderson/National Transportation Safety Board/The Associated Press)

 

FAA officials had questioned whether the technology would work on helicopters, which fly lower and could trigger too many false alarms that might detract from safety.

The NTSB said FAA’s response was unacceptable, but dropped the matter.

“Certainly, TAWS could have helped to provide information to the pilot on what terrain the pilot was flying in,” Homendy said of the helicopter that was carrying Bryant.

Homendy also said it was too soon to say whether the pilot had control of the helicopter during the steep, high-speed descent, although she noted that “it wouldn’t be a normal landing speed.”

Bill English, investigator-in-charge of the agency’s Major Investigations Division, said it’s not clear yet whether “TAWS and this scenario are related to each other.”

Pilot had 8,000 hours of experience

Zobayan, 50, was well-acquainted with the skies over Los Angeles and accustomed to flying Bryant and other celebrities.

He had spent thousands of hours ferrying passengers through one of the nation’s busiest air spaces and training students how to fly a helicopter. Friends and colleagues described him as skilled, cool and collected, the very qualities you want in a pilot.

Zobayan had flown the day before the crash on a route with the same departure and destination — Orange County to Ventura County. But on Sunday, he had to divert because of heavy fog.

The chartered Sikorsky S-76B plowed into a cloud-shrouded hillside as the retired NBA star was on his way to a youth basketball basketball tournament in which his daughter Gianna was playing. Two of her teammates also were on the helicopter with parents.

Watch: Fans mourn Kobe Bryant as investigators probe crash

As a memorial to Kobe Bryant grows outside L.A.’s Staples Center, investigators are trying to determine the cause of Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed the NBA legend, his daughter and seven others. 2:27

NTSB investigators have said Zobayan asked for and received permission from air traffic controllers to proceed in the fog, which Homendy said was “very common.” In his last radio transmission before the helicopter went down, he reported that he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer.

Investigators have not faulted his decision. or determined why he made it. The FAA warns helicopter pilots that it is their job to decide whether to cancel a flight because of bad weather or other risks, and to have a backup plan in case weather worsens during the flight.

Zobayan was chief pilot for the craft’s owner, Island Express Helicopters. He also was a flight instructor, had more than 8,000 hours of flight time and had flown Bryant and other celebrities, including Kylie Jenner.

Island Express has had three previous helicopter crashes since 1985, two of them fatal, according to the NTSB’s accident database. All involved flights to or from the company’s main destination of Santa Catalina Island, about 20 miles off the Southern California coast.

On Tuesday, the last of the bodies and the wreckage were recovered from the weekend crash in Calabasas.

Fingerprints were used to confirm the identity of Bryant, 41; Zobayan; John Altobelli, 56; and Sarah Chester, 45. While the the coroner has not identified five other victims, relatives and acquaintances have identified them as:

  • Gianna Bryant, 13-year-old daughter of Kobe Bryant.
  • Payton Chester, 13-year-old daughter of Sarah Chester.
  • Keri Altobelli, wife of John Altobelli.
  • Alyssa Altobelli, daughter of John Altobelli.
  • Christina Mauser, helped Bryant coach his daughter’s team.

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Netherlands, Senegal advance out of Group A after wins on final match day

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Senegal’s Kalidou Koulibaly, right, celebrates with teammates scoring his side’s second goal during the World Cup group A soccer match between Ecuador and Senegal, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (Francisco Seco/AP)

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly put his team into the last 16 of the World Cup by volleying home the winner in a 2-1 victory over Ecuador on Tuesday.

Koulibaly scored three minutes after Moises Caicedo had evened the score at 1-1.

In a must-win match for the African champions, Senegal took the lead after a first-half penalty by Ismaila Sarr. Caicedo scored his goal in the 67th.

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At 1-1, Ecuador would have advanced from Group A and Senegal would have been eliminated.

The Netherlands beat Qatar 2-0 in the other match to win the group. Senegal finished second while Ecuador and Qatar were eliminated.

Senegal last advanced from the group stage at the 2002 World Cup, when the team reached the quarterfinals in its tournament debut.

Netherlands 2, Qatar 0

AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — The Netherlands finished off the worst showing by any World Cup host nation by beating Qatar 2-0 on Tuesday.

The Dutch advanced to the round of 16 by winning Group A while the Qataris, who were already eliminated, became the first host to lose all three of its group matches at soccer’s biggest event.

Cody Gakpo put the Netherlands ahead midway through the first half with his third goal in as many matches and Frenkie de Jong doubled the advantage five minutes into the second half.

The Netherlands is a three-time runner-up at the World Cup, and also finished third in 2014, while Qatar was making its tournament debut.

The Dutch failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

The Netherlands finished with seven points at the top of the group. Senegal, which beat Ecuador 2-1 in the other group game, advanced in second place with six points. Ecuador was eliminated with four points and Qatar ended with zero.

The attendance at Al Bayt Stadium, which also hosted Qatar’s loss to Ecuador in the tournament opener, was given as 66,784 — nearly at full capacity. There were small pockets of orange-clad Netherlands supporters, and Qatar fans behind one of the goals who chanted in unison and jumped up and down.

At one point during the second half, Qatar fans held aloft a large Palestinian flag that said “Free Palestine” on it.

In the 26th minute, Gakpo took control outside the area, dribbled forward and unleashed a powerful side-footed shot between two defenders that entered inside the right post.

Gakpo became the fourth Dutch player to score in three consecutive World Cup games after Johan Neeskens (1974), Dennis Bergkamp (1994) and Wesley Sneijder (2010). He also became only the second player to open the scoring for his team three times in the same group stage after Alessandro Altobelli for Italy in 1986.

De Jong’s goal came when he sprinted forward uncontested to knock in a rebound from close range following a shot from Memphis Depay.

A possible third goal for the Netherlands by Steven Berghuis was waved off following a video review for a handball in the buildup.

Berghuis then hit the bar in added time.

While the Netherlands dominated the possession and created many more chances, Qatar did push forward on occasion and there was a nervy moment for the Dutch when goalkeeper Andries Noppert had trouble collecting a long-range shot from Ismael Mohamed after Gakpo’s goal.

TOP SCORER

Gakpo drew level with France standout Kylian Mbappé and Ecuador veteran Enner Valencia atop the tournament scoring chart.

For club and country in all competitions this season, Gakpo has been involved in 35 goals in 29 appearances with 17 goals scored and 18 assists.

That should make the 23-year-old PSV Eindhoven forward the target for an expensive transfer in the upcoming months.

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‘We came to make history’: Canada hoping to achieve more firsts at World Cup

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UMM SALAL, Qatar – Even if Canada can’t advance to the knockout stage, a strong finish to the World Cup will have lasting ramifications.

Thursday’s game against Morocco simultaneously means nothing from a Canadian perspective, but the players know that it’s imperative that they close out the tournament by achieving another first.

“We came here to the World Cup to make history,” said Alphonso Davies after training on Tuesday. “First game didn’t go our way, we played well but we didn’t get the three points we wanted. I’m happy to put my name in the history books [versus Croatia], we showed the quality but definitely, in this third game, we want to finish with three points.”

“This group has been chasing and reaching history throughout this journey,” stated midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “There’s a lot of records that were broken and we’ll continue going on that journey.”

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It’s vitally important that Canada doesn’t close out the World Cup with a whimper. Sure, losing the first two matches and ending any hopes of reaching the knockout stage is a disappointment, as Osorio pointed out, but every casual or hardcore fan will remember this tournament a lot more fondly if it ends on a high.

“We do believe that we are good enough to pass through to the next round,” said Osorio. “Unfortunately the results didn’t go our way but I think we put together two pretty good performances.”

In fairness to Canada, the final 25 minutes of the first half in the Croatia defeat were horrific. But they responded well after halftime until Andrej Kramaric completed his brace.

Morocco won’t be an easy test, either, having drawn Croatia and beaten Belgium to line itself up for a possible appearance in the last 16.

But there’s no doubt that Canada’s first appearance at a men’s World Cup in 36 years will be a boon for the sport.

It starts with the players. Alistair Johnston is close to joining Scottish champions Celtic, who will participate in the Champions League if it goes back-to-back in the Premiership. Ismael Kone has been linked to several clubs in Europe as well.

“Each and every guy on this team has the potential to play in the top five leagues in the world,” said Davies.

“The quality we have in this team is tremendous. I feel that is definitely showing itself in their abilities on this stage.”

Plus there are the future stars of tomorrow who will be even more motivated to pursue soccer as a sport having seen their heroes square off against the best in the world.

“We’re hoping that the dream of the Canadian kid starts to evolve,” said Osorio. “It’s not a dream of making the World Cup. It’s a dream of getting past the first round, getting to the semifinals, getting to the final and someday winning the World Cup, why not?”

Scoring the first goal in men’s national team history at a World Cup will go a long way toward achieving that goal. A win over Morocco to cap off the first appearance in 36 years would be even greater.

From there, strong showings at the 2023 Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup will only prepare the team for a historic World Cup at home in 2026.

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World Cup Iran-US: Why Iran gave the US players flowers in 1998

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Amid harsh barbs and heated geopolitics, the last World Cup match-up between Iran and the United States began with an unlikely gesture – bouquets of white flowers.

The flowers, Iran’s coach later said, were meant as a symbol of peace ahead of the 1998 showdown in France.

Two decades later, political tensions were again high ahead of the Iran-US game in Qatar.

The latest meeting, however, went without any friendly gestures.

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The previous match, held in Lyon, came 20 years after diplomatic relations between the two nations were severed as a result of the storming of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and subsequent 444 day hostage crisis.

Just one month before kick-off, the US State Department labelled Iran the world’s “most active” state sponsor of terrorism, while several high-level Iranian officials kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-US rhetoric.

Despite the tensions evident in the halls of the United Nations and in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s players – led by California-based manager Jalal Talebi – decided to start the match with a signal that the only competition between the two would be on the pitch.

“We decided to make something special,” Mr Talebi said in an oral history of the match produced by ESPN.

“Let us go inside and give them nice flowers to say that we are here for peace. We are not here for fighting or anything.”

The US team reciprocated, giving their opponents US Soccer Federation (USSF) pennants. Together, the squads posed for a group picture, with many of the players smiling ahead of the high-pressure match.

 

Iranian and US players in 1998

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“I thought that was great,” Cobi Jones, then a midfielder for the US team, said in the ESPN report.

“It’s just like a sign of like sport trumping politics and all that. That was very important and having the mixed photo was great.”

The days leading up to the World Cup rematch on Tuesday between the two teams were once again marked by tensions, coming amid widespread anti-government protests in Iran and just after the USSF removed the emblem of the Islamic Republican from the flag it posted in online graphics.

The pictures were later deleted, and US manager Gregg Berhalter apologised, saying that “sometimes things are out of our control” and that he and the US team were only focused on football.

The US team went into the match hoping to avoid a repeat of the 1998 game, which ended with a 2-1 victory for Iran, though both countries were eliminated from the tournament after the game.

Alexi Lalas, a Fox Sports commentator who was a member of the 1998 team, told the Associated Press that the current US team would be well advised not to ignore the wider geopolitics surrounding the current match.

“Understanding the importance of this game, not just from a soccer perspective but from a cultural perspective, I think is crucial for the United States,” he said, addressing what would motivate the US on the pitch.

The US-Iran match in Qatar ended 1-0 in the Americans’ favour after a goal from Christian Pulisic in the 38th minute.

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