At 9:06 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 26, 2020, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, with nine people aboard: Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, six family friends, and the pilot. The helicopter was registered to the Fillmore-based Island Express Holding Corp., according to the California Secretary of State business database. The group was traveling to Camarillo Airport in Ventura County for a basketball game at Bryant's Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks.
Due to light rain and fog that morning, the Los Angeles Police Department helicopters and most other air traffic were grounded. The flight tracker showed that the helicopter circled above the L.A. Zoo due to heavy air traffic in the area. At 9:30 a.m. the pilot contacted the Burbank Airport's control tower, notifying the tower of the situation and was told he was "flying too low" to be tracked by radar. At that time, the helicopter experienced extreme fog and turned south towards the mountains. At 9:40 a.m. the helicopter climbed rapidly from 1,200 to 2,000 feet (370 to 610 m), flying at 161 knots (298 km/h; 185 mph).
At 9:45 a.m., the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and began burning. Bryant, his daughter, and the other seven occupants were killed. Initial reports indicated that the helicopter crashed in the hills above Calabasas in heavy fog. Witnesses reported hearing a helicopter struggling before crashing.
On February 7, Bryant and his daughter were buried in a private funeral in Pacific View Memorial Park in the Corona del Mar neighborhood of Newport Beach, California. Their graves were unmarked to protect their privacy. A public memorial service was held on February 24 at Staples Center, the Lakers' home arena in downtown Los Angeles.