Grieving Vanessa Bryant has sued Island Express Helicopters, owner of the Sikorsky helicopter in which her husband Kobe and daughter, Gianna and seven others died on 26 January.
The suit coincided with a memorial service for Kobe today in Los Angeles, California.
In the suit first reported by TMZ, Vanessa’s lawyers are seeking unspecified damages from Island Express, arguing that fog conditions on Jan. 26 should have prevented the company from putting lives at unnecessary risk.
The lawsuit also alleges that Kobe Bryant’s longtime pilot, Ara George Zobayan, who died in the crash, was previously disciplined for violating visual flight rules in 2015.
The lawsuit also says the pilot was going 180 miles per hour in the heavy fog in a steep decline.
The lawsuit claims the pilot 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.
The lawsuit also alleges that the helicopter was unsafe, per TMZ.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that while Zobayan was certified to use the helicopter’s sophisticated navigation system, Island Express was not, calling into question the legality of flying in the foggy condition. National Transportation Safety Board officials also announced that the helicopter was not equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System that could have alerted Zobayan prior to the crash.
“Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” Monday’s lawsuit read, according to L.A. Times reporter Nathan Fenno.
Island Express, which has reportedly experienced three other helicopter crashes since 1985, temporarily suspended operations in the week following the latest crash, according to ABC News.
For the memorial, thousands of mourners will gather in Staples Center to say farewell to Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
The basketball superstar and his 13-year-old daughter will be honoured in a public memorial at the arena where Bryant played for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Celebration of Life will feature speakers reflecting on Kobe Bryant’s impact on his sport and the world, along with music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements. Bryant became active in film, television, and writing after he retired from basketball in 2016.
Bryant’s family, dozens of sports greats and many major figures in Bryant’s public life are expected to attend.
Staples Center is sold out for the memorial. The money made from ticket sales will be given to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, which supports youth sports programs in underserved communities and teaches sports to girls and women.
Bryant played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, including the final 17 seasons at Staples Center, which opened in 1999. The five-time NBA champion’s two retired jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — hang high above the arena where he became the third-leading scorer in league history until Lakers star LeBron James passed him on the night before Bryant’s death.