Vanessa Bryant Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Following Kobe and Gianna's Deaths
By Antoinette Bueno
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Vanessa Bryant is suing Island Express, the company that owns the helicopter that crashed on Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California, killing her husband, Kobe, her 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other victims.
ET has obtained the 72-page lawsuit she filed, which claims Ara George Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter that fateful day, "had a duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent pilot would use under the same or similar circumstances." In its claims, the lawsuit also cites several areas where Zobayan may have been negligent.
The lawsuit also alleges that Island Express Helicopters had "advance knowledge of the unfitness" of Zobayan due to a previous violation in 2015. Vanessa is asking for punitive damages.
In response to the wrongful death lawsuit, a company spokesman for Island Express Helicopters tells ET, "This was a tragic accident. We will have no comment on the pending litigation."
The news that a suit would be filed was first reported by TMZ.
Several people called 911 to report the fatal helicopter crash on Jan. 26, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department later released five of those calls. The audio clips shed light on just how poor the weather conditions were in the Calabasas, California, area at the time, with many callers saying that they couldn't see the crash but heard it.
"A helicopter crashed into a mountain. We heard it and now I'm looking at the flames," one caller said, with another saying, "I just heard a helicopter go over me ... it went over my head. It's thick in clouds, and then I just heard a pop and it immediately stopped."
"I would call FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and find out who is flying this area," the second caller continued. "I was just thinking to myself, 'If this guy doesn't have night vision,' I mean, he's completely IFR [Instrument Flight Rules] ... he's got no visual."
A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department told ET that the department grounded all of their helicopters on the morning of Jan. 26 because the foggy weather conditions did not meet the LAPD’s minimum standards for flying.
Bryant's helicopter appeared to encounter weather issues around the Los Angeles Zoo, circling the area at least six times at a low altitude, perhaps waiting for the fog to clear. The pilot contacted the control tower at Burbank airport at around 9:30 a.m., and roughly 10 minutes later, they encountered heavy fog as they traveled north. The helicopter flew into a mountain in Calabasas at around 9:45 a.m. The National Transportation Safety Board has not said what officially caused the crash.
Last month, ET spoke to Bryant's former helicopter pilot, Kurt Deetz, who flew the NBA legend in his helicopter for two years, from 2015 to 2017. Deetz told ET that flying Bryant and his fellow passengers would have been up to Zobayan's discretion. "Every pilot has their level of comfort and as long as you're not IMC [instrument meteorological conditions, you can fly]," he shared. "Every pilot has different comfort levels."
"As a PIC [pilot in command], you determine if you can do the mission or not," Deetz explained.
For more on the helicopter crash, watch the video below: