Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner and operator of the helicopter that crashed in fog and killed the Los Angeles Lakers star and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, last month. According to a KTLA news report, the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, said the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was negligent when he flew in cloudy conditions the morning of Jan. 26 and should have aborted the flight that killed all nine people on board.
The wrongful death lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters, Inc., the operator of the service, and Island Express Holding Corp., the owner of the craft. It also names Zobayan’s representative or successor. Zobayan died in the crash as well. The lawsuit accuses the pilot of being negligent in eight different ways including failing to properly assess the weather, flying into conditions for which he wasn’t cleared, and failing to control the helicopter.
What the Lawsuit Alleges
The lawsuit was also filed the same morning when a star-studded public memorial service for Bryant and his daughter and other victims including the pilot, was held at Staples Center before a sold-out crowd. Zobayan frequently piloted Bryant and on that fateful day was flying him, Gianna, and six of their friends to a basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. The helicopter crashed into a hillside in nearby Calabasas. Zobayan was trying to navigate in heavy fog on a day when visibility was so low that LAPD and sheriff’s helicopters were grounded.
Bryant reportedly texted right before the crash and did not indicate anything was wrong. In his final transmission, Zobayan told air traffic control that he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above the clouds. He was 100 feet short of breaking through the cloud cover when the helicopter banked left and plunged into the hillside. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is still investigating the crash, has said there was no sign of mechanical failure. A full report is not expected for a year.
The wrongful death lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Vanessa Bryant’s grief, sorrow, loss of companionship, and funeral expenses. It also seeks punitive damages to deter future wrongdoing. The suit states, the helicopter company failed to supervise and train him and allowed him to fly in unsafe weather.
Our Los Angeles aviation accident attorneys hope more details come out during the course of this legal action and that this lawsuit truly makes helicopter travel in Southern California and nationwide much safer.