Daily Archives: Jan 28, 2020

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Investigators will continue after sunrise Tuesday to sift through the wreckage of Kobe Bryant’s ill-fated helicopter that crashed in California, killing the former NBA star, his daughter and seven others on board, as they try to answer both the why and how of the accidentAn 18-member National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team, assisted by FBI forensic specialists, began mapping the wreckage site Monday with drone aircraft and examining debris scattered across the hillside where Bryant’s chopper went down on Sunday.

    Los Angeles County coroner’s investigators, working alongside aviation NTSB inspectors, said they had recovered the first three bodies collected from the crash site and were searching for more remains.

    Officials said that they would be on the scene for about five days collecting perishable evidence and would not draw any conclusions in the near term, also noting that the craft was not equipped with a flight data recorder called a “black box.”

    In a sign limited visibility was of particular interest to investigators as reports indicated foggy conditions, NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy appealed to the public to come forward with any photographs that might help document local weather conditions at the time of the crash.

    But Homendy told reporters that weather was just one factor.

    “We take a broad look at everything in an investigation – man, machine and the environment. And weather is just a small portion of that,” she said at a late-afternoon news conference in Calabasas, California, about mile from the crash site, roughly 40 miles (65 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

    Bryant, who won five National Basketball Association championships in his 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, was known since his playing days to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid the Los Angeles area’s glacial traffic.

    In addition to the charismatic 41-year-old and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, three other families linked to the Mamba Sports Academy perished on their way to a girls’ basketball tournament: a husband and wife with their 13-year-old daughter; a mother and her 13-year-old daughter; and a basketball coach who was also a mother.

    The ninth victim was the pilot, Ara Zobayan, an experienced former flight instructor who was instrument-rated, or qualified to fly in fog, according multiple media accounts.

    The company that owns the chopper, Island Epress Helicopters, said the pilot had more than 10 years experience and has logged more than 8,000 flight hours.

    Witnesses recounted thick fog over the foothills where the helicopter went down. The fog was so bad that both the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department grounded their helicopter fleets, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing officials.

    Air traffic controllers gave the pilot “Special Visual Flight Rules,” or clearance to fly in less than optimal weather around the Burbank airport.

    A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) official noted a pilot “does not get a general, or blanket, clearance from the FAA to fly in these conditions. A pilot is responsible for determining whether it is safe to fly in current and expected conditions.”

    The NBA canceled a game scheduled for Staples Center on Tuesday between the Lakers and their crosstown rivals, the Clippers, as fans mourned.

    Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Writing by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

     

    LIVONIA, Mich. (Reuters) – Ask Victor Burch about the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, and he will rattle off a string of issues of more pressing concern to him, starting with making a living as a barber in this northwestern suburb of Detroit

    “You’ve got elderly who need help. You’ve got veterans who need help. You’ve got poor people who need help. Impeachment doesn’t really help a person who is struggling,” said Burch, 40, who took up cutting hair after he lost his job at a plastics factory in the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

    Burch, an undecided African-American voter, added: “Close up the barber shop and say: ‘Let’s just sit and hold hands and watch and see if Trump is going or not’? We can’t do that. We don’t live in that type of tax bracket.”

    Voters like Burch and places like Livonia will be at the epicenter of November’s presidential contest. Michigan itself is a crucial battleground state that Trump carried unexpectedly in 2016 by about 11,000 votes, propelling him to the White House along with wins in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

    But interviews with two dozen voters in Livonia over recent days showed that months of impeachment hearings, testimony and political storms in Washington had done almost nothing to alter their views. Instead, many were focused on issues of the day, such as jobs, healthcare, immigration and education.

    In some ways, the suburb is a microcosm of the country, with opinion polls showing that support for removing Trump for office is largely split along party lines.

    While the presidential impeachment proceedings, which have culminated in just the third such Senate trial in U.S. history, have consumed Washington, many voters across the country, including in Michigan, see the outcome as a foregone conclusion, with the Republican-controlled Senate unlikely to convict.

    Trump has remained defiant and denied wrongdoing in the face of Democratic accusations that he abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender seeking to challenge him in the Nov. 3 election.

    When Reuters visited Livonia in October, just weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives’ decision to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, interviews with voters at the time showed they were dug in on the issue.

    Steve King, 65, who plays Democratic and Republican political events in Michigan with his band, Steve King and the Dittilies, said nothing he had seen since then had altered his view. He called the Senate trial “kind of pointless”.

    “There’s a sense of frustration. You’re doing all this and it’s not going to change anything,” said King, a self-described independent political junkie who plans to vote for whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee.

    His advice for the Democratic presidential candidates: “Trump is Trump. You have to ignore him completely and just focus on the policies.”

    IMPEACHMENT AN ‘AFTERTHOUGHT’

    That seems to be just what Democratic Party officials in Michigan and volunteers in the state for the Democratic presidential contenders are doing.

    Larry Nearhood, a 31-year-old volunteer for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign from the northern Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods, said that in his conversations with voters, impeachment was an afterthought.

    “It mainly only comes up after we’re done talking about everything else,” Nearhood said. “It’s just in the background.”

    Local Trump backers are more willing to call attention to impeachment, hoping it will help the Republican president on Election Day.

    While Democrats charge that Trump abused his power in the Ukraine affair and obstructed Congress in its investigation, his defense has warned against removing a president less than 10 months before Americans vote on whether to give him a second term.

    “A majority will not have their minds switched,” said Ben Hirschmann, 24, from Fraser, who gathered in downtown Detroit on Saturday with about two dozen other Trump supporters from the suburbs to protest the impeachment.

    Hirschmann, who was wearing an American flag sweater and waving a ‘Trump 2020’ flag, said he had not been moved by the trial.

    “A bunch of the stuff they (Democrats) have is based on hearsay, which doesn’t stand up in court. Speculation doesn’t stand up either,” he said.

    Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Peter Cooney

     

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