Kobe Bryant crash: Pilot's family blames passengers for their own deaths as they knew ‘the risks involved'
A representative for the pilot who flew the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter Gianna, and six other passengers has suggested that those on board were to blame for their own deaths in the fatal crash.
Responding to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Kobe's wife Vanessa Bryant, the family of pilot Ara George Zobayan, who was also killed in the crash, said the passengers knowingly and voluntarily accepted the risks involved in taking the flight.
Besides the pilot, eight others — including Bryant and Gianna — died after their helicopter crashed into a mountainside in Calabasas, California, on January 26.
While the investigation into the crash is still being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board, a representative for Zobayan has accused the passengers of "negligence."
"Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility," the family wrote in its response to the suit.
In the document, Zobayan's family also points out that several third parties could have added to the situation, accounting for the responsibility of causing the deadly accident.
In her lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters Inc, the company that owned the ill-fated helicopter, Vanessa had also accused pilot Zobayan of being "reckless."
It stated that the pilot was going 180 miles per hour in the heavy fog in a steep decline and of failing to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff, failing to obtain proper weather data prior to the flight, failing to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy condition, failing to maintain control of the helicopter, and failing to avoid "natural obstacles" in the flight path.
Zobayan had been trying to climb above a cloud layer when the aircraft banked left and plunged 1,200 feet (366 meters) at high speed, and there has been speculation that the pilot became disoriented in the foggy weather.
The lawsuit also highlighted how the 50-year-old had been disciplined in 2015 for violating the visual flight rule minimums by flying into an airspace of reduced visibility. He had also been counseled by an FAA investigator after he violated FAA rules by crossing into busy airspace near Los Angeles International Airport on May 11, 2015, according to records.
While it did not list an amount for damages, Vanessa was reportedly seeking punitive damages and is claiming that both, the pilot and Island Express, were reckless.
She has also filed a legal claim about a collection of supposedly unauthorized photographs taken by officials of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that showed the aftermath of the crash.
She sought damages for emotional distress and mental anguish caused by the revelation that eight LA County Sheriff’s Department deputies took graphic photographs of the victims and shared them with unauthorized people.
"No fewer than eight sheriff’s deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches...," it said. "As the Department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes."
"Mrs. Bryant has suffered an immense tragedy by losing her husband and daughter; her grief has been compounded by the severe emotional distress caused by the sheriff’s deputies’ misconduct and the Sheriff’s Department’s mishandling of that misconduct... Mrs. Bryant is deeply worried that all copies of the sheriff’s deputies’ photos have not been accounted for, and that it is only a matter of time before she or her daughters encounter them on the Internet."