National News

Kobe Bryant's widow files a wrongful death suit against helicopter company over crash

Posted February 24, 2020 4:38 p.m. EST


The widow of Kobe Bryant is suing Island Express Helicopters for the January crash that killed the NBA legend and their daughter, alleging in part that the pilot failed to safely operate the aircraft.

Vanessa Bryant's lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, the same day a memorial celebration for Kobe and Gianna Bryant was getting underway at the Staples Center.

The suit alleges numerous counts of negligence and wrongful death in the January 26 crash in Calabasas, California, which also killed seven other people, including pilot Ara Zobayan.

Island Express, the helicopter's operator, suspended its services after the crash. An attorney representing Island Express, Teri Neville, had no comment when reached Monday by phone.

The helicopter, which crashed into hilly terrain in foggy conditions, was transporting its passengers to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball game.

The complaint obtained by CNN claims, in part, that Zobayan:

  • "Failed to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff;"
  • "Failed to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy conditions;"
  • And "failed to properly and safely operate the helicopter resulting in a crash."

"Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable for any and all actions of Ara George Zobayan, including his negligent and careless piloting and operation of the subject helicopter, by reason of its principal and agent relationship with Ara George Zobayan," the lawsuit says.

The suit says Vanessa Bryant is seeking general, economic and punitive damages. No financial figures were expressed in the suit.

National Transportation Safety Board is investigating

In addition to Bryant, 41, and his daughter, Gianna, 13, the crash claimed the lives of Payton Chester, 13; Sarah Chester, 45; Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and Zobayan, 50.

In a February 7 update from the National Transportation Safety Board on the crash investigation, the board said there was no evidence of engine failure. A week later, it issued a preliminary report underscoring the overcast weather in the area that day.

The board plans to release a determination of the crash's cause in its final report months from now.

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