Vanessa Bryant Sues Helicopter Company, Pilot For Wrongful Death Of Kobe Bryant And Gianna
In a wrongful death lawsuit, Vanessa Bryant said the helicopter should never have been allowed to fly that day.
February 24, 2020 at 10:22 pm
First reported by TMZ, the lawsuit identifies a number of mistakes made by the pilot, Ara George Zobayan, and the helicopter company, Island Express Helicopters. The company was not allowed to fly on days when the fog was low and the pilot was flying at 180 miles per hour right before it crashed into a hill in Calabasas, California on January 26, according to the lawsuit.
In addition to the adverse conditions, the 72-page lawsuit states Zobayan "failed to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff, failed to obtain proper weather data prior to the flight, failed to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy condition, failed to maintain control of the helicopter and failed to avoid 'natural obstacles' in the flight path."
Zobayan previously had violated visual flight rule minimums after flying into the airspace of reduced visibility in 2015 and was allegedly disciplined for it. In a report from The Los Angeles Times, Zobayan violated FAA rules by crossing into busy airspace near Los Angeles International Airport on May 11, 2015.
“There are no indications that this is a repeated incident and there are no signs that this incident is a trend with Mr. Zobayan," the report said.
Seven other people, including Zobayan, were killed in the helicopter crash that took the lives of Kobe and Gianna. Investigators for The National Transportation Safety Board released a statement earlier this month that said the helicopter was in fine condition but Zobayan "became disoriented and crashed while trying to get to clear skies."
However, according to their preliminary investigation, Zobayan began a high-speed descent and left turn in rapidly rising terrain. He was descending at 4,000 feet per minute before slamming into the hillside at more than 180 mph.
"If you exit the bottom of the clouds at 4,000 feet per minute at that high speed, you've certainly lost control of the aircraft. Once you break out of the clouds, it's clear. Everything lines up with the body," Lau said. "Now you have a real horizon," air safety consultant Kipp Lau told ESPN.
LAPD spokesman Joshua Rubenstein said the fog was so bad that day that the Los Angeles Police Department grounded its helicopters until the afternoon
The National Transportation Safety Board said their full investigation will take about a year to complete. Zobayan had more than 8,200 hours of flight time and often served as Bryant's pilot in addition to serving other stars like Kawhi Leonard and Kylie Jenner.
The lawsuit was filed just hours before the official memorial service for Kobe and Gianna at the Staples Center.