Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, is reportedly taking legal action over the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter
An estimated 20,000 mourners gathered at Staples Center in Los Angeles for a memorial service on Monday to honor late NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. But another big development centered on the tragic passing of Kobe and Gigi was quietly unfolding elsewhere. Earlier in the morning, attorneys for Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that operated the ill-fated helicopter carrying her husband, daughter, and seven others — all of whom lost their lives in the Jan. 26 crash.
Per NBC News, the lawsuit alleges that Island Express Helicopters put the helicopter in the air despite knowing conditions were not safe for flying. As previously reported, the fog on that devastating day was extremely thick and low in Los Angeles. So much so, according to LAPD spokesman Joshua Rubenstein at the time, that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters until the afternoon when conditions were expected to clear.
The lawsuit claims that the pilot, Ara George Zobayan (who was also killed in the crash), was flying in blinding conditions at a speed of 180 miles per hour in a steep decline moments before crashing into the hillside in Calabasas, California. Accordingly, says the suit, Zobayan and Island Express Helicopters failed to both properly assess the weather prior to the flight and abort the flight when it became apparent the conditions were not suitable. “Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” reads the lawsuit.
The 27-count complaint emphasizes that the pilot (and therefore helicopter operators) was “reckless.” As such, Vanessa seeks general damages, economic damages, punitive damages, damages for “pre-impact” terror, and more. Heartbreakingly, the latter count describes the emotional trauma Kobe and Gigi undoubtedly suffered as the helicopter lurched toward the mountains.
Also referenced in the suit is a 2015 violation received by Zobayan for flying into an airspace with reduced visibility. According to Zobayan’s Federal Aviation Administration enforcement record, he was piloting a helicopter in Hawthorne, California, at the time. He was heading north when he requested permission to cross through LAX’s airspace. Due to visual flight rules — in other words, rules mandating you must be able to fly by sight — he was denied on account of poor visibility caused by inclement weather.
The FAA report noted that Zobayan “admitted his error, took responsibility for his action, and was willing to take any other necessary steps toward compliance.”
The lawsuit doesn’t specify a monetary figure for damages sought, but reports estimate it could be in the range of millions. It also remains unclear at this point whether Vanessa intends to put a portion of any damages awarded from the lawsuit toward the Mamba on Three Fund — an endowment created by Vanessa to “honor and support loved ones of the seven other victims involved” in the tragic helicopter crash.
The exact cause of the helicopter crash remains under investigation.