LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Kobe Bryant’s widow has sued the company that owned and operated the helicopter which crashed in heavy fog in Calabasas last month, killing the Lakers legend and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant on Monday says the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions Jan. 26 and should have aborted the flight. The pilot was among the nine people killed in the crash.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, names Island Express Helicopters, Island Express Holding Corp. and the estate of the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash.
It was filed on the same day as the public memorial honoring Kobe and Gianna which was held at Staples Center.
The suit faults the company for allowing the helicopter to fly in “heavy fog and low clouds” that prompted “law enforcement agencies and tour companies” to ground their helicopters.
“On information and belief, Island Express Helicopters Federal Aviation Administration operating certificate limited its pilots to flying only under visual flight rules,” according to the lawsuit. “The subject helicopter was not licensed or certified to be flown into instrument conditions. On information and belief, the pilot-in-command, Ara George Zobayan, was required to fly only in conditions that he could navigate visually.
An Island Express Helicopters spokesperson would not comment on the pending litigation other than calling the crash a “tragic accident”.
Dan Rose, an aviation attorney and former military pilot, says the lawsuit is a formality that will allow Vanessa Bryant and the other victims’ families to collect whatever insurance money the company has.
He says the true “fight” comes between the different claimants on who gets what.
“Even if there was, let’s say, fifty million dollars in insurance, that would arguable in all likelihood not be enough to legally satisfy all the plaintiffs,” said Rose.
On the morning of Jan. 26, Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others were killed when the helicopter they were riding in crashed in the Calabasas hills amid heavy fog.
The helicopter had departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County and was bound for Camarillo, with the passengers on board heading to Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where he was set to coach Gianna in a tournament game.
In its preliminary report, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that there was no evidence the chopper’s engines had failed prior to going down.
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