Kobe Bryant’s widow sued the helicopter owner who crashed in the fog and killed the former Los Angeles Lakers star and their 13-year-old daughter last month while publicly mourning their deaths Monday in a emotional public ceremony.
Vanessa Bryant’s wrongful death lawsuit filed with Los Angeles Superior Court stated that the pilot was negligent and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions on January 26 and was to have stopped the flight that killed all nine people on board. The cause is called Island Express Helicopters Inc. and also addresses the representative or successor of pilot Ara Zobayan, listed only as “Doe 1” until a name can be determined.
The lawsuit claims that Zobayan has been negligent in eight different ways, including failing to properly estimate the weather, flying in conditions for which he has not been authorized and failing to control the helicopter.
He said the company “promotes and engages in unnecessary and unnecessarily risky means of transportation in such circumstances.”
It was filed on the morning when a public memorial service for Kobe Bryant, his daughter and all the victims, including Zobayan, was held to an exhausted crowd at the Staples Center, the arena where Bryant spent 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.
Bryant, his daughter Gianna and six of their friends were traveling to a basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy when the helicopter crashed.
Zobayan, the frequent Bryant pilot, had tried to navigate in a thick fog that limited visibility to the point that the Los Angeles police and the sheriff’s departments had landed their helicopter fleets.
Under the visual flight rules that Zobayan was following, he was asked to see where he was going. Zobayan was sued by the Federal Aviation Administration in May 2015 for violating these rules by flying in low visibility airspace, the lawsuit said.
In his latest broadcast, Zobayan told air traffic control that he was climbing 1,219 meters to get through the clouds. It was 30 meters away from the cloud cover when the helicopter leaned left and plunged into a grassy hill, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB has not concluded what caused the accident in Calabasas, on the outskirts of Los Angeles County, but said there was no sign of mechanical failure. A final report has not been scheduled for about a year.
Calls to Island Express looking for comments were not answered and his voicemail was full.
The company released a statement on January 30 on its website saying that the shock of the accident had prompted him to discontinue the service until it was appropriate for staff and customers.
Island Express has had at least three previous helicopter crashes since 1985, two of them fatal, according to the NTSB crash database. All flights involved to or from the main airline destination of the island of Santa Catalina, about 32 km from the southern coast of California.