LOS ANGELES—Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, is suing the owner of the helicopter that crashed in fog and killed the former Los Angeles Lakers star and their 13-year-old daughter.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on Monday, February 24, by Vanessa in Los Angeles Superior Court. In the lawsuit, it states the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions on January 26. The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters Inc., as well as the pilot Ara Zobayan’s representative or successor, listed only as “Doe 1” until a name can be determined. The crash killed Vanessa’s husband, Kobe, and their 13 year old daughter Gianna, in addition to 7 others onboard including the pilot.
The lawsuit claims that the pilot 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.
The lawsuit was filed the same morning that a public memorial service was held at the Staples Center to honor all nine people who passed away in the helicopter crash, including the pilot named in the lawsuit.
Zobayan, who consistently provided flight services for Bryant, was flying the former Laker, his daughter Gianna, and six of their friends to a basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy when the helicopter crashed in Calabasas.
The FAA previously released information stating that Zobayan had no records of enforcements, accidents or incidents. He was “counseled” after a 2015 incident in which he allegedly violated FAA rules by flying without authorization into the highly protected airspace around Los Angeles International Airport in reduced-visibility conditions. A definitive cause for the crash has yet to be determined, but reports have stated there was no sign of mechanical failure and a final report is expected as late as a year.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Vanessa grief, sorrow, loss of companionship and funeral expenses, among other things. It also seeks punitive damages to “deter future wrongdoing,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit also indicates the helicopter owner failed to install an alarm system that would have warned the pilot he was close to hitting the ground, which was not made mandatory in that specific helicopter’s year model, simply recommended.
The helicopter company has had at least three previous helicopter crashes since 1985, two of which were fatal, according to the NTSB’s accident database.