Kobe Bryant’s Widow Sues Helicopter Operator For Deaths

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Written by Ann Brown
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As the lives of Kobe and his daughter were being celebrated at an event, Bryant’s widow filed a lawsuit against the owner and operator of the helicopter. Vanessa Bryant speaks during a celebration of life for her husband Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Just as the lives of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were being celebrated at a star-studded event in Los Angeles, Bryant’s widow filed a lawsuit against the owner and operator of the helicopter. Vanessa Bryant claims in the lawsuit the owner and operator of the helicopter are responsible for the helicopter crash that killed the former Los Angeles Lakers star and their daughter, and seven others, last month.

According to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by in Los Angeles Superior Court, the pilot “was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions Jan. 26 and should have aborted the flight that killed all nine people aboard,” AP reported.

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Island Express Helicopters Inc., operator of the service, and Island Express Holding Corp., owner of the craft were named in the lawsuit as were the pilot Ara Zobayan’s representative or successor, listed only as “Doe 1” until a name can be determined.

The lawsuit claims Zobayan was negligent in “eight different ways, including failing to properly assess the weather, flying into conditions he wasn’t cleared for and failing to control the helicopter,” AP reported.

The lawsuit was filed the morning that a star-studded public memorial service for Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and all the victims, including Zobayan, was held at the Staples Center.

Zobayan was Kobe’s frequent pilot and was flying the L.A.Lakers star, his daughter, and six of their friends to a basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy when the helicopter crashed in Calabasas.

“Zobayan had been trying to navigate in heavy fog that limited visibility to the point that the Los Angeles police and sheriff’s departments had grounded their helicopter fleets,” AP reported.

According to the lawsuit, under the visual flight rules Zobayan was following, he was required to see where he was going. It also pointed out  Zobayan has a history of not following these rules as he was cited by the Federal Aviation Administration in May 2015 for violating those rules by flying into reduced visibility airspace.

Bryant wants compensation for her grief, sorrow, loss of companionship, and funeral expenses, among other things.

The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages to “deter future wrongdoing,” the lawsuit said. “Acts and omissions of the defendant has manifested such reckless and complete indifference to and a conscious disregard for the safety of others.”

Island Express Inc., the lawsuit claims, was liable for the actions of the pilot. It asserts that the company failed to supervise and train Zobayan, allowing him to fly in unsafe weather.

As far as the helicopter owner, the lawsuit claims the owner failed to install an alarm that would have warned the pilot he was close to hitting the ground, which is recommended by the NTSB.

The news of the lawsuit has caused a flood of criticism of Vanessa Bryant on social media, many questioning the time. Others on social media point out that this is routine in cases such as this.