Mike Babcock from TMZ sports joined the show as he does every week. But this week is understandably different. Mike joined the show this morning to tell the guys about how TMZ broke the news of the crash that claimed nine lives on Sunday morning — including those of Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter Gigi.
Mike took us through those first few hours Sunday morning. Babcock was at home when he got the phone call was told we got some information that Kobe was in a helicopter crash and might have died. When news like that comes in, the first thing to do is try to verify the story with officials and next of kin. Babcock was on the phone from that moment on. He came into the office and already have made and making a bunch of calls.
What happened was that Harvey (Levin) got a phone call from an actual law enforcement source — someone he’s know for some time. And they gave him the news. At that point is when the TMA Sports team were all alerted. “We started making a whole bunch of phone calls over the next 45 min to an hour, and one of those phone calls, one of the last, ultimately was to a member of Kobe’s camp, and they confirmed the news with us. Then they understood that we were going to post the story.”
They had gotten to a point where they were comfortable and confident that the information they had was true. There was no rush to throw the story up. “We talked to many people including Kobe’s camp before posting the story.”
Sharp and Shapiro pointed out the irony of law enforcement criticizing the TMZ team for sharing the news, when it had been a law enforcement official who had provided Levin with this information. Many on social media were excoriating Levin’s media outlet saying they should have told the family first, the shouldn’t have to learn through social media.
Babcock maintains that Kobe and Gigi were the only victims that they named when they posted the story.When Kobe Bryant dies in a terrible helicopter crash as sad as it is, it is news. That’s why TMZ reported on it. You know who else did? Every tv station, radio station, website across the country and the world. “I don’t think we did anything irresponsible, as far as Kobe’s family finding out from our website. Like I said; we talked to Kobe’s camp before we posted the news.” Babcock doubled down on the fact that someone from law enforcement reached out to TMZ first with the information“that is absolutely correct.”
Understandably, reporting tragic news is not something that should ever be done lightly. Babcock adds, “being part of media it’s helpful to look back at these situations and see where mistakes were made and see how this can be done better in the future. The landscape is a little different with social media. There is a feeling you want to be first. The way TMZ operates is being first is great, but being first and being wrong is a huge detriment — it’s hurtful to the family, and its harmful to the organization.”Mike says he’d rather be second, third, or fourth and have the information right than rush something out that’s incorrect.
For instance, early reports of the accident totaled the casualties at five, but as we now know, that number was actually nine.
Babcock says that’s “one of those instances you might be talking to people who are working in an official capacity. The initial info was three people including Kobe, and then it turned out to be nine. Things were unclear when the accident first happened.”
Mike added that as of this morning, law enforcement and NTSB officials have only recovered three bodies — and those were recovered on Sunday night.
Babcock explained that this was not a situation where the helicopter lightly touched down, or made an emergency landing on hillside. “They were going about 160mph when they hit the side of the mountain. The wreckage spans over a 500-600 foot stretch. The impact was a really large impact. I think that’s why they are having some trouble recovering the victims.”
Based on information now available, Mike says that helicopter should not have been in the air that morning. There were a few eyewitnesses who claim they heard the helicopter’s engines fluttering.
Babcock says he eventually was able to get in touch with a guy who from 2014-2017 was Kobe’s helicopter pilot. He explained to him that the Sikorsky S-76B is like a limousine for the air. But add, “double engine failure would shock him.” He essential said it might have been pilot error. Might because there is no black box. (Black boxes are not required by law to have in these types of Helicopters). It was a very foggy day in LA that day, LAPD had grounded their helicopters. The helicopter was flying low and fast for a good deal of the trip north. They did go up to about 2k feet, but it was still too low. It is a very hilly and mountainous area where they crashed. The fog is said to have played a significant role.
The Sikorsky S-76B is a popular helicopter favorited by a number of the well heeled. In addition to Kobe, Kylie Jenner has also flown on this helicopter before. This pilot was not new. He had an excess of eight thousand hours as a pilot — Over 13 years. He was a very experienced pilot, instrument rated, who has flown in fog before.
On its surface it would seem that this tragedy was avoidable. But as we’ve seen before, everyone is human. Lapses of judgement and in awareness (by a number of people) that morning played some part in the events leading up to the eventual crash.
Speaking to the public reaction; how people are honoring Gigi and Kobe, including the talk of NBA All Star teams wearing 24 for the East and 8 for the West —Babcock says he’s never seen a reaction like this. “The way people have been affected, the interest, the website traffic.” This is the biggest story TMZ has ever put up. It’s being felt across the world. “Kobe was a giant in the game, so many people looked up to and loved. He was a hero to so many people. Moods have been so somber, it’s like someone they know passed away. He gave them so many great memories over a 20 year period. Thats why people are genuinely upset. You saw Trump, Obama, we broke news to Hillary and she was affected by it.” Babcock thinks the tributes would be very nice. “I haven’t talked to the NBA. I think there’s a lock that Kobe will get a statue. I think there is a movement of Kobe becoming the new logo.”
The guys asked Babcock if he’d heard any information on possible funeral arrangements service for Kobe and his daughter. Mike hasn’t but has heard that people are wondering about a public event. “It’s all complicated because of how many people were involved in this accident, and the recovery of the bodies. I think it might take a little bit longer to get this stuff put together and made public. I do anticipate they will have something for the public to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant. “