The NTSB says an initial investigation into the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash shows no outward evidence of engine failure.
The National Transportation Safety Board released preliminary findings into the Jan. 26 crash saying it appears the engine was working at the time of the crash because there was a cut tree branch at the crash scene.
The NTSB report says the helicopter's instrument panel was completely destroyed in the wreckage.
The main wreckage was 127 feet from the impact site -- and that's where investigators found both engines, the entire fuselage, portions of the cockpit instrument panel and other key pieces of the aircraft.
According to the report, the pilot's final transmission to the Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (SCT) was to let the controller know he was trying to climb to 4,000 feet to get above the thick fog/cloud layer.
However, radar data collected by investigators shows the aircraft only reached 2,300 feet before trying to make a left turn. Eight seconds later the aircraft began descending (while trying to turn) at a VERY high rate of speed, dropping at rate of 4,000 feet per minute before crashing into the mountain.
As we reported ... NTSB officials said Kobe's Sikorsky S-76 chopper was NOT equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), nor was it outfitted with a flight data recorder (FDR) or cockpit voice recorder (CVR).
In the seconds prior to crashing, the pilot, Ara Zoboyan, took the helicopter from 1,200 feet to 2,000 feet within a matter of seconds. It appeared he cleared one hillside, only to strike the next when it crashed at about 1700 feet. Photos taken by a mountain biker on a nearby trail show the intensity of the crash.
In the days following the crash, a team of NTSB investigators combed the crash site ... rummaging through debris. The agency released drone footage showing most of the aircraft in tiny pieces.
All of the parts were shipped to Arizona, where the NTSB reassembled the aircraft.
The NTSB says it will release its final report in 12 to 18 months. That one is expected to include findings, recommendations and probable cause for the crash.
As we told you, the NTSB says back in 2006 it recommended the FAA require all helicopters carrying 6 or more passengers to have TAWS, and for all rotorcraft to have an FDR and CVR. The FAA didn't mandate either.
All 8 passengers -- Kobe, his daughter, Gianna, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser -- and the pilot were killed in the crash.