Vanessa Bryant and her late husband, Kobe.
Vanessa Bryant and her late husband, Kobe.

Kobe Bryant's widow sues helicopter operator

KOBE Bryant's widow has sued the owner and operator of the helicopter that crashed in fog and killed the former Los Angeles Lakers star and their 13-year-old daughter last month.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant in THE Los Angeles Superior Court said the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions on January 26 and should have aborted the flight that killed all nine people aboard.

The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters Inc, operator of the service, and Island Express Holding Corp., owner of the craft. It also targets pilot Ara Zobayan's representative or successor, listed only as "Doe 1" until a name can be determined.

Calls to Island Express Inc seeking comment were not answered, and its voicemail was full.

The lawsuit asserts 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.

It was filed the morning that a star-studded public memorial service for Kobe Bryant, his daughter and all the victims, including Zobayan, in Los Angeles.

Zobayan, Bryant's frequent pilot, was flying the basketball star, his daughter Gianna, 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.

The NTSB hasn't concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but said there was no sign of mechanical failure. A final report isn't expected for a year or so.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Vanessa Bryant's grief, sorrow, loss of companionship and funeral expenses, among other things. It also seeks punitive damages to "deter future wrongdoing," the lawsuit said.

Island Express Inc. issued a statement January 30 on its website saying the shock of the crash had prompted it to suspend service until it was appropriate for staff and customers.

The company has had at least three previous helicopter crashes since 1985, two of them fatal, according to the NTSB's accident database.


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