Vanessa Bryant accuses pilot of being 'reckless' in flight that killed Kobe, files wrongful death lawsuit
The lawsuit claims the pilot and the company were reckless and is seeking punitive damages that could total in the millions
Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant's grieving widow, has sued the company that owned and operated the helicopter that crashed and killed her husband, her teenage daughter Gianna, and seven others in Calabasas, California, late last month.
The wrongful death lawsuit, a copy of which has been obtained by TMZ, has alleged that Island Express Helicopters Inc. was only allowed to fly under visual flight rules and that the conditions on the day of the crash were not conducive for such flying.
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) previously reported that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters on January 26, the day of the crash, as a result of the fog and did not fly until the afternoon because the weather conditions did not meet their "minimum standards for flying."
The lawsuit said the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was going 180 miles per hour in the heavy fog in a steep decline, 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 had been trying to climb above a cloud layer when the aircraft banked left and plunged 1,200 feet (366 meters) at high speed. There has been speculation that the pilot became disoriented in the foggy weather.
It also points out that Zobayan, 50, was disciplined in 2015 for violating the visual flight rule minimums by flying into an airspace of reduced visibility. He had been counseled 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.
However, a report filed in connection to the incident said he "admitted his error, took responsibility for his action, and was willing to take any other necessary steps toward compliance" and that "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 lawsuit accused Island Express Helicopters Inc. of engaging in unnecessary and needlessly risky means of transportation under the circumstances.
It asked for damages for "pre-impact terror" — for the emotional trauma Kobe and Gigi suffered as Zobayan struggled to get out of the clouds before the crash.
While the lawsuit does not list an amount for damages, TMZ reported that Vanessa is seeking punitive damages and is claiming that both, the pilot and Island Express, were reckless and that it could amount to millions.