Vanessa Bryant, the widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, has filed a suit against Island Express Helicopter, the owner of the helicopter which crashed killing Kobe and eight others including their 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, in January. The lawsuit was filed shortly before the public memorial for Kobe and Gianna organised at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
In the fatal crash that shocked the fans world over, Bryant and Gianna along with seven others were on their way to Thousand Oaks, California, to participate in a basketball match, when the chopper in which they were travelling, crashed into a hillside in Calabasas. All nine members aboard the ill-fate chopper, along with the pilot, Ara Zobayan, died on the spot.
Lawsuit filed for the wrongful death of Kobe Bryant along with 8 others
In the lawsuit, Vanessa has alleged the ill-fated chopper Sikorsky S-76B helicopter, was allowed to fly under visual flight rules. On the day of the crash, the weather conditions were not favourable for flying. Blaming the deceased pilot for the wrong judgement, the complaint further said that the pilot Ara Zobayan was negligent and failed "to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft." It also points out the warning issued to Zobayan in 2015 for violating the visual flight rule minimums by flying into the airspace of reduced visibility.
According to LA Times, the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles states: "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."
"The company authorised the flight "with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions."
"Island Express Helicopters and the pilot, Ara George Zobayan, had a "duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent pilot would use under the same or similar circumstances," it read further.
Timeline of the chopper crash
On January 26, the area had poor visibility due to thick fog as a result of which even the local police had their choppers grounded. NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy revealed that prior to taking off, the pilot had requested the air traffic controllers for a special clearance, known as Special Visual Flight Rules, to fly in less than optimal weather. According to the investigating authorities, in his last message recorded by the ATC, Zobayan said that he was struggling to avoid clouds.
The pilot and ATC were in constant contact with each other once the chopper kept circling in the air over Burbank for almost 15 minutes at 9.15 am. Even though the area was engulfed in thick fog, the helicopter headed towards its destination.
Minutes before the fatal crash the ATC lost contact with the helicopter. Just forty seconds before the crash, ATC had sent a message to the pilot; "You're still too low for flight following at this time." Zobayan replied by saying that he was trying to avoid the clouds as he went down the hillside. In a statement issued on Monday, the Company said: "This was a tragic accident. We will have no comment on the pending litigation."