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Kobe Bryant’s Widow Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Following Helicopter Crash

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Vanessa Bryant, the widow of NBA basketball legend Kobe Bryant, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the helicopter that crashed in January, resulting in the death of her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. The complaint alleges that the pilot, Ara George Zobayan, who was also killed in the crash, was negligent for flying in such poor weather conditions.

Kobe and Gianna Bryant were traveling with seven others to a youth basketball game at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, on the morning of January 26 when the helicopter crashed.

A 28-count complaint has been filed against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. The complaint alleges Zobayan failed “to properly monitor and assess the weather conditions” before the crash, or to “use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft.” Additionally, the complaint alleges that Island Express Helicopters “failed to equip the helicopter with the proper safety technology, including a Terrain Avoidance and Warning System that alerts pilots to hillsides and mountains in foggy weather.”

The complaint further alleges that Zobayan was “flying at a high rate of speed” in such hazardous conditions, and specifically notes that the pilot was “disciplined in 2015 for violating flying rules by traversing into areas with low visibility.”

Following the 2015 incident, Zobayan reportedly took responsibility for his mistake and was counseled by a Federal Aviation Administration investigator, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times that cited FAA records. Shawn Coyle, a longtime helicopter pilot, described the violation to the LA Times as something he considered relatively minor.

“I don’t know a single pilot out there who hasn’t violated a rule,” he said. “If that’s the only violation he’s ever had then I would say he’s pretty safe.”

Zoey Tur, a veteran Los Angeles news helicopter pilot, provided a different perspective to the LA Times. Tur noted that both the 2015 incident and the crash involved the pilot struggling with poor weather conditions, telling the newspaper, “As a pilot you’re supposed to check the weather conditions along the route of flight.”

The lawsuit was reportedly filed shortly before a memorial service was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, honoring Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Over 20,000 mourners attended the memorial.

NPR confirmed that retired NBA stars Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, and Tim Duncan attended the memorial. Additionally, entertainer Jennifer Lopez and her fiancé, retired baseball player, Alex Rodriguez, as well as late night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel, were all in attendance for the ceremony.

Vanessa Bryant is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. She is represented by Brad D. Brian and Luis Li of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP, and Gary C. Robb and Anita Porte Robb of Robb & Robb LLC.

Island Express Helicopters has reportedly suspended operations and has yet to issue a public statement commenting on the lawsuit.