Families Killed With Kobe Bryant in Crash Sue Helicopter Owners

Kobe Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash that killed his daughter and eight others Jan. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Nearly three months after Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant and his daughter died in a tragic helicopter crash, surviving family members of other passengers on board sued the company that operated the aircraft.

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died with seven other passengers and the pilot when their helicopter slammed into a hillside in the Santa Monica Mountains on a foggy Jan. 26 morning in Calabasas, California. The group had been headed to a youth basketball practice.

The families of Keri and John Altobelli, who were aboard the flight with their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, and assistant coach Christina Mauser filed separate wrongful death suits against Island Express Helicopters and the holding corporation on Friday. Their claims include careless, negligent and unlawful conduct.

John Altobelli was a college baseball coach with Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. His son John James Altobelli filed the suit on behalf of his family. Christina Mauser’s husband, Matthew Mauser, sued on behalf of his wife. The families are represented by LA-based law firm Panish Shea & Boyle.

An Island Express Holding spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Also aboard the flight were 13-year-old Payton Chester and her mother, Sarah Chester.

Bryant’s widow Vanessa filed a lawsuit against the helicopter company this past February, claiming pilot Ara Zobayan flew directly into unsafe weather conditions and was authorized to do so by Island Express. She claims Zobayan’s negligent conduct resulted in the deaths of all aboard and says the company breached its duty to ensure the helicopter was flight-ready.

Vanessa Bryant is represented by the law firms Munger Tolles & Olson and Robb & Robb.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board did not uncover any signs of engine failure when sifting through the debris, though the investigation is ongoing.

Zobayan had been disciplined by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2015 for crossing into busy airspace near Los Angeles International Airport.

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