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After news broke on Jan. 26 that former Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California, a video posted on YouTube wrongly gave viewers the impression that it shows footage of the accident as it happened.
The post, which has been viewed more than a million times, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The video shows what looks like a light-colored helicopter spinning out of control against a brownish, mountainous background before it crashes and bursts into flames and billowing black smoke. Sirens and people can be heard crying. The video is titled: "Kobe Bryant killed in California crash" and has the hashtags #ripkobe and #kobebryant.
Before comments were turned off on Jan. 27, users criticized the account that posted the video for misrepresenting that it showed the crash that killed Bryant and his daughter, as well as seven others. Some users suggested that the footage showed a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon.
But it wasn’t the Jan. 26 crash. Bryant, his daughter and others were flying in his private helicopter when it crashed in Calabasa, Calif. Business Insider reported the helicopter was a Sikorsky S-76B. Credible news photos show the aircraft was black, not a light color like the one in the YouTube video. Images from the crash scene show a foggy, green landscape, not the arid-looking background in the video.
The Washington Post reported that the helicopter went down in a remote hillside. Fog was dense enough that the Los Angeles Police Department grounded its helicopters, according to the paper. The YouTube video, meanwhile, doesn’t show fog. Nor does it match anthis eyewitness account of the crash.
Jerry Kocharian told the Los Angeles Times that he was drinking coffee outside when he heard a helicopter struggling overhead.
"It [didn’t] sound right and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering. But it was hard to make out, as it was so foggy," he said. According to the Times, the helicopter vanished into a cloud of fog and there was a boom.
We rate this video Pants on Fire.
YouTube post, Jan. 26, 2020
The Washington post, Kobe Bryant crash: NTSB investigators arrive in California, Jan. 27, 2020
NPR, 3 killed in Grand Canyon helicopter crash, Feb. 11, 2018
Pepperdine Graphic tweet, Jan. 26, 2020
Los Angeles Times, Legendary Laker and Newport resident Kobe Bryant, his daughter and OCC coach among 9 killed in helicopter crash, Jan. 27, 2020
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