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Kobe Bryant's widow sues helicopter company after fatal crash

Kobe Bryant's widow sues helicopter company after fatal crash

Feb 25, 2020

Los Angeles (USA) Feb 25: Vanessa Bryant has sued the owner of the helicopter that crashed in fog and killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, and her 13-year-old daughter Gianna last month.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed in Los Angeles says the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions on Jan. 26 and should have aborted the flight.
Pilot Ara Zobayan was among the nine people killed in the crash.
The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters Inc. and also targets Zobayan's legal representative or successor, listed only as "Doe 1" until a name can be determined.
Vanessa Bryant's lawsuit asserts that 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.
Calls to Island Express seeking comment were not answered, and its voice mail was full.
Lawsuit filed on day of public memorial
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 before a sold-out crowd at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the arena where the NBA all-star Bryant played most of his career.
Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel read Zobayan's name among the victims and encouraged donations to a fund set up for their families.
Plaintiffs have two years to pursue a wrongful death claim in California, which made the timing of the lawsuit unusual.
"That is a bit odd," aviation attorney Robert Hajek said. "I don't know what the strategy of that would be."
Attorneys for Vanessa Bryant would not comment on why they filed the case on the day of the memorial service.
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, Calif.
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.
Bryant never indicated anything was awry with the flight as he texted just before the crash, his friend and L.A. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said at the memorial.
Under the visual flight rules Zobayan was following, he was required to see where he was going. Zobayan was cited by the Federal Aviation Administration in May 2015 for violating those rules by flying into reduced visibility airspace, the lawsuit said.
Cause of crash so far undetermined
In his last transmission, Zobayan told air traffic control that he was climbing to 4,000 feet (1,219 metres) to get above the clouds. He was 100 feet (30 metres) short of breaking through the cloud cover when the helicopter banked left and plunged into a grassy hillside, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
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. "Acts and omissions of the defendant has manifested such reckless and complete indifference to and a conscious disregard for the safety of others."
The lawsuit said Island Express Inc. was liable for the actions of the pilot, who had worked there 10 years. It said the company failed to supervise and train him, allowed him to fly in unsafe weather and didn't implement reasonable flight safety rules and policies.
It asserted the helicopter owner failed to install an alarm system that would have warned the pilot he was close to hitting the ground. The NTSB has recommended that helicopters like the Sikorsky model that crashed be equipped with a terrain avoidance and warning system, but the FAA only requires it for air ambulances.
The company issued a statement Jan. 30 on its website saying the shock of the crash had prompted it to suspend service until it was appropriate for staff and customers.
Source: CBC News