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Fog may have disoriented pilot in helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, 8 others: NTSB

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Allen Berezovsky/Getty ImagesBy KELLY MCCARTHY and ALEX STONE

(LOS ANGELES) — While the cause of the helicopter crash that killed NBA star Kobe Bryant has yet to be determined, newly released information shows the pilot appears to be have been disoriented by the weather conditions, even telling air traffic control he was climbing in altitude when he was actually descending.

The National Transportation Safety Board publicly released a docket on Wednesday from its investigation into the crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in Southern California nearly five months ago.

The NTSB docket includes thousands of pages of transcripts and communication details from the final moments with pilot Ara Zobayan, which the agency believes could prove he was disoriented by weather conditions.

Zobayan reportedly told air traffic control they were “climbing” to 4,000 feet, when in reality the aircraft was falling, according to the NTSB.

The NTSB docket included pilot certification documents and text messages sent from Zobayan and the Island Express ground crew leading up to the flight.

In those communications, Zobayan brought up concerns about weather and logistics leading up to the chartered flight.

The pilot, who had been with Island Express Helicopters Inc. for 10 years, was one of Bryant’s preferred airmen.

On Saturday Jan. 25, the night before the tragic incident, the ground crew asked Zobayan in a text, “weather look OK tomorrow?” The pilot explained that he had just checked and said it was “not the best day tomorrow, but it is not as bad as today.”

The crew asked again on Sunday morning: “How is the weather looking for 9 [a.m.] departure?”

“Should be OK,” the pilot responded.

One crew member chimed in and said, “I agree.”

Less than 30 minutes after wheels up, the crew on the ground said it “just started raining lightly” and another 15 minutes after that, at 9:48 a.m., asked if the chopper had landed at its destination.

But their driver responded, “Not yet.”

Minutes later, at around 10 a.m. local time in Calabasas, California, the helicopter crashed with no survivors.

The NTSB also learned that there were various stipulations for flying Bryant.

The report detailed that any of the pilots for the former Lakers’ star had to be vetted by security and placed on an approved list of pilots who could operate a charter flight.

Additionally, the aircraft had to be a dual-engine helicopter.

An autopsy report released last month included a toxicology test that showed no alcohol in the pilot’s body. Drugs were also not detected.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'That '70s Show' actor Danny Masterson charged with three counts of rape

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Anna Webber/Getty Images for Netflix(LOS ANGELES) — (NOTE CONTENT) Actor Danny Masterson has been charged with raping three women in separate incidents occurring between 2001 and 2003, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Wednesday.

He is facing three counts of rape by force or fear. If convicted, Masterson faces a possible maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison.

According to complaint, the That ‘70s Show actor is accused of of raping a 23-year-old woman between January and December 2001. He is also accused of raping a 28-year-old woman in April 2003 and a 23-year-old woman sometime between October and December of that year.

Masterson has denied the allegations.

Following the charges, Masterson’s attorney Tom Mesereau released a statement, saying, “Mr. Masterson is innocent, and we’re confident that he will be exonerated when all the evidence finally comes to light and witnesses have the opportunity to testify.”

The statement continues, “Obviously, Mr. Masterson and his wife are in complete shock considering that these nearly 20-year old allegations are suddenly resulting in charges being filed, but they and their family are comforted knowing that ultimately the truth will come out. The people who know Mr. Masterson know his character and know the allegations to be false.”

Masterson’s arraignment is scheduled for September 18.

By Andrea Tuccillo
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

83-year-old beats COVID-19 after 75 days in hospital

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Esther Silva(HOMESTEAD, Fla.) — BY: TOMMY BROOKSBANK

An 83-year-old Florida man is now home after battling COVID-19 at a hospital for 75 days.

Lorenzo Rodriguez tested positive for novel coronavirus back in March after coming down with a fever. Three days later, he was rushed to a Baptist Health South Florida hospital once his conditioned worsened. Doctors immediately put Rodriguez under a medically induced coma and used a ventilator to support his failing lungs.

The situation seemed grim, but Esther Silva knew her dad was a fighter.

“I had faith that he was going to pull through,” Silva explained. “He’s such a hard worker, I knew he wouldn’t give in.”

Days turned into weeks without much progress, until Silva asked medical staff about a plasma treatment for COVID-19 she heard about on TV. Rodriguez received the experimental therapy April 18, and shortly thereafter, a medical breakthrough.

“That night I was told my father moved his arm and his eyes — it was incredible,” Silva said. “God answered my prayers.”

Rodriguez slowly regained his strength over the course of several weeks, with plenty of ups and downs along the way. After overcoming kidney problems, blood pressure spikes and pneumonia complications, the father and husband eventually was taken off a ventilator. He couldn’t swallow food or water for a time after enduring weeks of receiving meals via feeding tube.

Through it all, his determination never wavered.

“I kept telling him he had to put in 150% for his part,” Silva said. “Would keep reminding him to continue fighting, and that’s what he did.”

After 75 days battling COVID-19, Rodriguez tested negative and was discharged from the Homestead, Florida, hospital as medical staff gathered for a round of applause and cheers. It’s a moment the father-daughter duo will never forget.

“I was overwhelmed as soon as I saw him, what can I tell you,” Silva said through tears. “I’m an only child, so my dad is my hero and he was so happy. I would have moved mountains to keep him alive and it was the most incredible feeling to see him after everything he went through.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Michigan attorney general to review 2014 case where black man died at the hands of mall cops

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iStock/M_MUC1968(DETROIT) — BY: IVAN PEREIRA

Michigan’s attorney general said her office intends to review the 2014 case of a black man who died while being apprehended by mall security officers, after protesters shined new light on the incident in recent weeks.

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Tuesday evening that the Southfield Police Department and Oakland County Prosecutor made a request for her office to review the incident that led to McKenzie Cochran’s death while he was being detained in the now-closed Northland Mall.

His detainment by three white mall security officers, which reminded many of George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis, was captured on video but didn’t result in any criminal charges.

A mall employee called security after Cochran allegedly caused a disturbance in a store, according to reports. Mall cops pepper-sprayed the 25-year-old and pinned him on the ground, with one officer putting his leg on Cochran’s back, according to the video.

Cochran is heard in the video screaming, “I can’t breathe!” And one of the officers is heard responding, “If you can talk, you can breathe.”

Cochran went limp and died shortly thereafter. An autopsy report determined his cause of death was “positional asphyxia,” according to investigators.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper chose not charge the mall officers at the time.

Cooper said in a statement to ABC Detroit affiliate WXYZ on June 11 that her office reviewed all evidence in the incident and consulted with the Justice Department before making that decision.

“In the interest of justice, we consulted with an expert, referred by the Justice Department, who also reviewed the case, and came to the conclusion that while the guards were negligent, they were not criminally negligent,” the statement read.

During recent protests, activists outside the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office have demanded she reopen the case. Some called for Cooper to be voted out of office, according to WXYZ.

The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t immediately return messages to ABC News seeking comment after Nessel’s announcement.

“If the evidence warrants additional action, we will make efforts to ensure justice is served,” Nessel said in a statement.

Gerald Thurswell, an attorney representing Cochran’s family, told ABC News the victim’s family is happy the case is under a new review. He said that at the very least, the officers involved should have been charged with manslaughter.

“Those officers,” he told ABC News, “need to be held accountable.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

After COVID-19 delays, 'Avatar' sequels get rolling again

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Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic(NEW ZEALAND) — James Cameron and company are back at work in New Zealand on the Avatar sequels, following production shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As previously reported, the shooting location of the four sequels was the key to getting back to work. The island nation took early, methodical steps to limit COVID-19’s spread.

Producer Jon Landau posted a snap of the first shot of the newly-restarted production: It shows Cameron perched behind a camera crane.

Avatar 2 is slated for a Dec. 17, 2021 opening, while the third, fourth, and fifth films in the series are scheduled to roll out in 2023, 2025, and 2027, respectively.

The movies are being shot concurrently. The casts include returning stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and Giovanni Ribisi. Series newcomers include Oscar-winner Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, and and Dileep Rao.

The Avatar movies will be released by 20th Century Studios, which is owned by Disney, parent company of ABC News.

By Stephen Iervolino
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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