Vanessa Bryant Kobe Bryant’s widow is suing the owner of the helicopter that crashed in a fog and killed the former Los Angeles Lakers star and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, last month.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant in Los Angeles Superior Court said the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions January 26 and should have aborted the flight.
Pilot Ara Zobayan was among the nine people killed in the crash.
The lawsuit names Island Express Helicopters Inc. and also targets Mr Zobayan’s legal representative, listed only as “Doe 1” until a name can be determined.
Ms Bryant’s lawsuit asserts that Mr Zobayan was negligent in eight different ways, including failing to properly assess the weather, flying into conditions he wasn’t cleared for and failing to control the helicopter.
The lawsuit was filed as a public memorial service for Bryant, his daughter, and all the victims, including Mr Zobayan, was being held at the arena where Bryant played most of his career.
Calls to Island Express seeking comment were not answered and its voicemail was full.
The company issued a statement January 30 on its website saying the shock of the crash had prompted it to suspend service until it was appropriate for staff and customers.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of the crash into a hillside in Calabasas on the outskirts of Los Angeles County.
No sign of engine failure
A witness to the deadly crash said the helicopter sounded normal just before slamming into a hillside and wreckage at the scene showed no sign of an engine failure.
The man told the NTSB the hillside where the crash occurred was shrouded in mist when he heard the helicopter approaching. It sounded normal and he then saw the blue-and-white aircraft emerge from the fog moving forward and down.
Within two seconds it slammed into the hillside just below him. The impact tore the helicopter apart and all aboard died from blunt force trauma. The aircraft’s instrument panel was destroyed and most of the devices were displaced.
The flight controls were broken and suffered fire damage. Investigators believe that since a tree branch at the crash site was cut, the engines were working and rotors turning at the time of impact.
All four of the helicopter’s blades had similar damage, the report stated.
The 50-year-old Mr Zobayan’s most recent flight review included training on inadvertently flying into bad weather conditions.
It covered how to recover if the aircraft’s nose is pointed too far up or down, and what to do if the helicopter banks severely to one side.
He earned satisfactory grades in the review, which took place in May 2019.
The others killed included Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri and daughter Alyssa; Bryant’s friend and assistant coach, Christina Mauser; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, 14.