Vanessa Bryant Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Helicopter Company
Vanessa Bryant has filed a 72-page wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters after the death of her husband and daughter, Kobe and Gigi Bryant. Vanessa claims that the company’s pilot Ara Zobayan - who also died in the helicopter crash on January 26th along with Kobe, Gigi, and six others - was reckless when he decided to fly in dense fog.
In Vanessa’s lawsuit, she alleges that Zobayan opted to fly under visual flight rules instead of using the instruments in the helicopter that were designed to help him navigate the Sikorsky S-76B chopper through foggy weather conditions.
Just hours after the accident, the Los Angeles Times reported that one of the biggest questions about the crash was why Zobayan opted to fly under those visual flight rules instead of relying on his instruments.
Zobayan was certified to fly in bad weather using his instruments. But National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss says that a certification from the FAA limits Island Express pilots to flying only under visual flight rules. What that means is Zobayan was not allowed by his company to use his instruments, even though he was certified. Instead, he had to rely on his sight, but that required good visibility.
The crash occurred when Zobayan was flying Kobe, Gigi, and their six friends to a basketball tournament. On their way to Kobe’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, the helicopter slammed into a hill in Calabasas, California, amid foggy conditions with low visibility.
In the flight tower audio, Zobayan can be heard talking to different air traffic controllers at different airports in the Los Angeles area, and one employee warned the pilot that he was “still too low level for flight following” just before the crash.
Vanessa Bryant claims in her lawsuit that Zobayan was going 180 mph in a steep decline through the heavy fog, which lead to the fatal crash. She also accuses the pilot of not properly assessing the weather or receiving the proper data before takeoff, and she says Zoboyan failed to abort the flight when he realized how bad the cloudy and foggy conditions were.
She claims that Zobayan and Island Express Helicopters put Kobe and Gigi in danger because they let them fly in “unnecessary and needlessly risky” conditions. And, she says that Zobayan failed to avoid “natural obstacles” in the flight path.
Vanessa Bryant believes that Island Express Helicopters were “reckless” and that they caused Kobe and Gigi “pre-impact” emotional trauma. She is requesting an undisclosed amount in compensatory and punitive damages.