Vanessa Bryant Settles Lawsuit Against Helicopter Company, Pilot’s Estate

Vanessa Bryant Settles Lawsuit Against Helicopter Company, Pilot’s Estate


Vanessa Bryant Settles Lawsuit Against Helicopter Company, Pilot’s Estate Photo: In this July 26, 2018, file photo, former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch the U.S. national championships swimming meet in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of NBA icon Kobe Bryant, and the families of other helicopter crash victims have agreed to settle their lawsuit against the pilot’s estate and the helicopter company he was flying for.

The NBA Hall of Famer, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six other passengers died when the helicopter they were flying in crashed into a California hillside on Jan. 26, 2020.

Vanessa Bryant, her children, and relatives of five other victims filed a settlement agreement notice on June 22 with a federal judge. The terms of the confidential deal weren’t disclosed.

If approved by the court, the settlement would end a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed against the estate of the pilot and the owner and operator of the helicopter.

The passengers were flying from Orange County to a youth basketball tournament at Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County. During the flight, the helicopter encountered dense fog. Pilot Ara Zobayan climbed sharply and had nearly broken through the clouds when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter banked abruptly and crashed into the Calabasas hills below.

Others who died in the crash included Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Kobe coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. Alyssa and Payton were Gianna’s teammates.

The National Transportation Safety Board report on the crash blamed pilot error, stating a series of poor decisions led Zobayan to “fly blindly into a wall of clouds where he became so disoriented he thought he was climbing when the craft was plunging,” ESPN reported.

The pilot appeared to go against federal guidelines by flying into the fog, the National Transportation Safety Board said, according to NBC News.

The agency also found fault with Island Express Helicopters Inc. for inadequate review and oversight of safety matters.

Island Express Helicopters has continued to deny responsibility and said the crash was “an act of God” it couldn’t control. It has now agreed to the claims of the settlement.

Vanessa Bryant’s legal battles aren’t over.

Business Insider legal reporter Jacob Shamsian tweeted, “Litigation over Kobe Bryant’s death isn’t over. Vanessa Bryant is still suing the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, after officers shared photos of the crash and victims. The helicopter company is also suing the FAA, for greenlighting the flight.”

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