Stephen Colbert Reveals His Personal Connection To Kobe Bryant Tragedy

The “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert and bandleader Jon Batiste paid tribute on Tuesday night to basketball great Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday. The accident also claimed the lives of eight others, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

“I feel a strange connection in this moment,” Colbert said. “One I wouldn’t wish on anyone.” 

Colbert lost his father and two of his brothers in a 1974 plane crash when he was just 10 years old. Much like Bryant’s chopper, the plane carrying Colbert’s family members also went down in heavy fog.

“One of the terrible things about that shock and the heartbreaking un-reality nightmare quality of someone huge in your life who just disappears, the center of your love disappearing in that moment, is not knowing what happened,” he said. 

The flight recorder from the 1974 crash that killed his family members revealed that the crew had been chatting about unrelated matters as the aircraft made its approach in fog, just before it crashed. Colbert said that discovery led to the sterile cockpit rule, which requires the crew to engage only in essential tasks to ensure safety at low altitudes, such as takeoff and landing.

Then he explained a little about helicopters, and how they lack much of the data recording information of airplanes. As a result, investigators may never know why a chopper such as the one carrying Bryant crashed, which could prevent them from recommending changes to prevent future accidents.  

Colbert said the Bryant tragedy could lead to a change that would ensure “black box”-type recorders be included on helicopters, much as the sterile cockpit rule came from the 1974 crash. 

“To do nothing after helicopters go down like this and we lose greats like this or we lose any person whose family is now in agony and in ignorance of what happened to their loved one I think is unconscionable,” he said.

“These people are now in misery,” he added. “Why compound their misery with mystery of what happened to their loved ones?”  

See more from Colbert below: 

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