Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: Families of victims file lawsuits
Family members of four passengers killed alongside Kobe Bryant and his daughter in a helicopter crash have joined the basketball star’s widow in suing the owners of the aircraft.
Bryant, 41, Gianna, 13, and seven others, including the pilot, died in the crash in Calabasas, north of Los Angeles, in foggy conditions in January.
The NBA star’s widow, Vanessa, launched a lawsuit in February, suing Island Express Helicopters Inc, which operated the aircraft, and its owner Island Express Holding Corp.
Now, relatives of four other victims have filed two further wrongful death lawsuits against the owners and operators of the helicopter.
One has been submitted by two children of John Altobelli, an Orange Coast College baseball coach who died alongside his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, who played basketball with Gianna.
The husband and three children of Christina Mauser, who helped Mr Bryant coach the girls’ basketball team, have filed the other lawsuit.
While Vanessa Bryant’s case names the dead pilot, Ara Zobayan, and his representative as defendants, the new cases do not.
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Mrs Bryant claims the pilot was careless and negligent to fly given the cloudy weather conditions, and that the flight should have been aborted.
All the cases allege that the two companies were careless and negligent.
Island Express Helicopters has been contacted by the Associated Press news agency, and a worker who answered the phone reportedly declined to comment on the cases. An email from the news agency requesting comment was not immediately returned.
The crash happened on 26 January, as the group was travelling to a youth basketball tournament, with the helicopter plunging down into the mountainside in thick fog.
An initial National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report said there were no signs of engine failure from the wreckage recovered.
“Viewable sections of the engines showed no evidence of an uncontained or catastrophic internal failure,” the NTSB said in the interim report.
Mr Zobayan, 50, had more than 8,200 hours of flight time and had nearly navigated the helicopter out of clouds when the aircraft suddenly turned and went down.
Weather conditions including heavy clouds, fog and limited visibility reported in the vicinity of the crash were clearly a problem, as audio from air traffic control and 911 calls have confirmed.
Also killed in the crash were Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, who was another of Gianna’s teammates.