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A high-profile wrongful death suit settles


The helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant on January 26th, 2020, devastated not only his family members but also his friends and fans. The death of his daughter Gianna and seven other passengers only added an extra level of tragedy to an already traumatic event.

All of the occupants were looking forward to attending a basketball service at the basketball superstar’s Mamba Sports Academy. They never made it to their destination.

Venessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express, the helicopter company that owned and used the helicopter to transport the group before crashing into a California hillside.

Reckless helicopter operation may have taken lives

The suit – filed in February 2020 during the public memorial service for all the crash victims – claimed that Ara Zobayan, the pilot, operated the helicopter negligently and breached his duty to keep the passengers safe. He carelessly flew into cloudy conditions without being cleared to do so. He also failed to properly assess the weather that typically would have resulted in the flight being aborted.

In the pilot’s last transmission, he informed air traffic control that he was climbing 4,000 feet to get the helicopter above the clouds. Heavy fog had already limited visibility to the point where the Los Angeles police and sheriff’s departments grounded their own helicopter fleets.

Under the visual flight rules that Zobayan was supposed to follow, he was required to see where he was going. It was not the first time that he violated that mandate, as he was cited almost five years earlier for flying into reduced visibility airspace.

On June 22nd, 2021, Venessa Bryant’s legal team filed a notice of settlement with the court. Terms will remain confidential. The court will have to sign off on the agreement.