Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa filed a lawsuit on Monday, January 24, 2020 against the operators of the helicopter that crashed on Sunday, January 26, 2020 killing the NBA icon, his daughter and seven others.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on the same day that Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and the other seven crash victims were memorialized in a public ceremony at the Staples Center.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the exact cause of the crash, although preliminary findings showed no sign of mechanical failure.
The lawsuit faults the company for allowing the helicopter to fly in heavy fog and low clouds that Sunday morning, which prompted law enforcement agencies and tour companies to ground their helicopters.
The lawsuit says Island Express Helicopters Federal Aviation Administration operating certificate limited its pilots to flying only under visual flight rules.
The subject helicopter was not licensed or certified to be flown into instrument conditions. On information and belief, the pilot-in-command, Ara George Zobayan, was required to fly only in conditions that he could navigate visually.
Zobayan attempted to manoeuvre the helicopter up and forward to clear the clouds, then entered a turn sending the helicopter into steep terrain at approximately 180 mph, according to the suit. Witnesses on the ground reported seeing the helicopter flying through a layer of clouds and fog before the helicopter crashed.
The lawsuit notes that in 2015 Zobayan was cited by the FAA for violating the visual flight rules minimums by flying into the airspace of reduced visibility from weather conditions.
Island Express did not immediately comment on the suit, which seeks unspecified general, economic and punitive damages.