Vanessa Bryant Sues Helicopter Owner Over Crash That Killed Kobe, Others

LOS ANGELES (CN) – As thousands gathered at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday to celebrate NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others who died in a helicopter crash last month, Kobe’s wife Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that operated the helicopter.

Sports fans around the world were stunned by the news of the Jan. 26 crash in the Santa Monica Mountains north of downtown Los Angeles. National Transportation Safety Board investigators found no sign of engine failure in debris from the helicopter and are working to determine the cause of the accident, including whether heavy fog may have played a role.

From left: Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Natalia Bryant and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant attend the 2018 world premiere of “A Wrinkle in Time” in Los Angeles. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, died in a helicopter crash in California on Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

The pilot in the crash, Ara Zobayan, had been disciplined in 2015 for violating federal flight rules, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported Zobayan had undergone additional training.

Vanessa Bryant filed her lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. negligently operated the Jan. 26 flight.

She says Zobayan – who also died in the crash – flew directly into unsafe weather conditions and was authorized to do so by the company operating the flight.

Zobayan’s negligent conduct in piloting the Jan. 26 flight directly resulted in the death of Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianni and seven others, Vanessa Bryant says in her complaint, adding the company operating the flight breached its duty to ensure the helicopter was flight-ready.

A spokesperson for Island Express Helicopters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vanessa Bryant seeks economic and punitive damages. She is represented by Brad Brian of Munger Tolles and Olson and Gary Robb of Robb & Robb.

Monday’s memorial was described as a “celebration of life” and attracted thousands of mourners who flooded downtown Los Angeles with a sea of purple and gold LA Lakers jerseys.

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