On the morning of Jan. 26, 2020, a popular mountain biking trail became the scene of tragedy when NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed when the Sikorsky S-76B private helicopter they were riding crashed into a hillside in Southern California.
The crash occurred during a foggy morning on the 12-mile singletrack mountain biking trail in Calabasas, New Millennium Loop Trail. As reported by BIKE Magazine, two local mountain bikers—Michael Dyer, 47, and Sam Gaglani, 50—were among the first people on the scene.
In an exclusive interview with BIKE Magazine, Dyer explained that the day began like any other day of riding with his friend. They met at Pedalers Fork, a boutique bike shop, restaurant, and coffee spot in Calabasas, for some coffee and biscuits while they discussed which trails to ride that morning. They settled on starting at the Bark Park trailhead on Las Virgenes Road. From there, they pedaled their way along the challenging switchback climbs and eventually to New Millennium—with its classic SoCal steep, loose, and rocky terrain.
Early on in their ride, they noticed an abnormally low helicopter that was flying just over their heads. “We thought it was unusual, as foggy as it was. It was about 9:40 a.m. We knew the heli was going really fast and flying very low, because it was very loud,” Dyer told BIKE. “It really caught our attention and just felt ‘off.’ Sam and I were both like, ‘What the f*ck? Why is he so low?'”
Shortly later, the bikers heard a crash, and the two men saw smoke and fire. Dyer immediately thought they had somehow gotten lost and were near the freeway, and witnessed a wreck or a wildfire. Soon the two saw the helicopter.
“You could see helicopter parts everywhere. We dismounted and ran to the wreckage,” Dyer told BIKE. “The debris field was so crazy—it’s unfathomable how something as big as a helicopter could end up in so many small pieces. Papers were still flying. There was a 4-foot part of the tail laying right on the trail. The fuselage of the heli was on the other side of trail on fire. There were two other mountain bikers on the trail beyond the crash. We yelled, ‘Is anyone alive?’ and they said they didn’t think so.”
The two mountain bikers that arrived on the scene first had already called 911, and the rescue helicopter arrived about minutes later. They lowered a rescuer on a line and the mountain bikers communicated to him that they had not seen any signs of survivors. The rescuer started to rope off the area and Dyer and Gaglani had no choice but to ride back.
The two were met by a reporter in the parking lot who interviewed them and informed them that Kobe Bryant was on board the helicopter. “For me, it’s not so much the Kobe Bryant story, but the collective loss of life—the tragedy of losing children and parents,” Dyer told BIKE.
Check out Bikemag.com for the full interview.
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