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Vanessa Bryant Sues OC Company and LA County Sheriff Over Fatal Helicopter Crash

Report Says Pilot Became Disoriented Before Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant and Eight Others

The widow of Los Angeles Lakers superstar, Kobe Bryant, has sued a second helicopter company stemming from the crash in Calabasas in January that killed her husband, daughter Gianna, and seven others. According to a report in The Orange County Register, the lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant alleges that the Santa Ana firm’s owner suggested the route for the ill-fated flight and should have aborted it, given the foggy conditions that day. The helicopter, a 1991 Sikorsky S76B piloted by Zobayan, crashed amid heavy fog on Jan. 26 on a Calabasas hillside, killing Zobayan and his eight passengers, including the 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

Demanding Accountability

The lawsuit names OC Helicopters, which provided the flight operations for the chopper owned by Island Express Helicopters piloted by Ara Zobayan who also died in the crash. The suit alleges that OC Helicopters’ owner and founder, Richard Wenn, suggested the route for this particular flight to Zobayan. The lawsuit also states that OC Helicopters improperly failed to tell the pilot, Zobayan, to abort or cancel the flight or turn around when its agent and employee, Webb, was in communications with Zobayan and monitoring the weather during the flight.

In fact, Webb personally checked and monitored weather conditions every hour and told Zobayan that based on weather reports, the flight was “doable” and was a “good flight plan.” Webb continued to review weather updates and communicate with Zobayan, and even sent him a final weather-related text 20 minutes after the chopper crashed.

Vanessa Bryant also filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County and Sheriff Alex Villaneuva alleging that he failed to keep his promise to her that the crash scene was secure and that some of the deputies tasked with the assignment took photos of the dead and shared them with others. Island Helicopters is facing at least four lawsuits since the crash including those by relatives of other passengers aboard the aircraft.

Justice for Families of the Deceased

These types of wrongful death lawsuits not only help hold the at-fault parties accountable but often bring about changes in laws, policies and practices that can help prevent such incidents and tragic loss of life in the future. Our Orange County wrongful death lawyers hope that these lawsuits result in permanent changes in how helicopters are operated especially during inclement weather. We also hope that Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against the LA County Sheriff’s Department paves the way for stringent policies when it comes to sharing or publicizing photos from accidents or crime scenes.


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California Personal Injury Blog