A Move Towards Justice

By Terrance Turner

Image result for helicopter crash
Wreckage of the helicopter crash on Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California. (Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe.)

This morning, Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna, and seven others last month.

As mourners gathered inside Staples Center in L.A. to honor to fallen father and daughter, news broke of the suit. The lawsuit is against Island Express Helicopters Inc., operator of the service, and Island Express Holding Corp., owner of the aircraft. It also targets pilot Ara Zobayan’s representative or successor, listed only as “Doe 1”, according to the Associated Press. Zobayan was among the nine people killed in the crash.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, makes complaint against all three parties over the course of its 72 pages. “The lawsuit asserts Zobayan was negligent in eight different ways, including failing to properly assess the weather, flying into conditions he wasn’t cleared for and failing to control the helicopter,” the AP reports. Zobayan had been cited in 2015 by the Federal Aviation Administration for flying into airspace with reduced visibility. He was doing the same on Jan. 26, telling air traffic control that he climbed to 4,000 feet to rise above the fog. Per NBC News:

The fog in Los Angeles was so dense on the morning the Sikorsky S-76B crashed crash into a hillside in Calabasas that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters until the afternoon, LAPD spokesman Joshua Rubenstein said at the time. The department requires 2 miles of visibility and an 800-foot cloud ceiling, he said.

Bryant alleges in the suit that the pilot failed to abort the flight even though he knew of cloudy conditions. The suit also says Zobayan flew the helicopter into conditions in which he couldn’t viably navigate using visual references, forcing him to use instrument flight rules (IFR), and failed to avoid or keep a safe distance between the aircraft and obstacles in the flight path.

NBC News previously reported that Zobayan had the proper federal certification to fly by IFR, but Island Express Helicopters did not, and he would have been restricted to the company’s licensing.

NBC News, “Vanessa Bryant files wrongful death suit after crash that killed Kobe, Gianna”

But Island Express is also held responsible in the complaint. “Defendant Island Express Helicopters employed Defendant Zobayan with conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others and authorized or ratified his wrong conduct, and itself engaged in conduct with malice, oppression, or fraud,” the suit states. It also claims that the company failed to properly train Zobayan, who had been employed there for a decade.

“Defendant Island Express Helicopters authorized, directed and/or permitted a flight with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions,” the lawsuit says, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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