Kobe Bryant’s widow sues helicopter owner as LA memorial takes place

Kobe Bryant’s widow has sued the owner of the helicopter which crashed in fog and killed her husband and their teenage daughter.

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit alleging wrongful death claims the pilot was careless and negligent by flying in cloudy conditions and should have aborted the flight.

The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was among the nine people killed in the crash last month.

Michael Jordan helped Vanessa Bryant off the stage at the service
Image:US basketball star Michael Jordan helped Vanessa Bryant off the stage

The lawsuit comes as thousands attended a public memorial service for the basketball legend, his daughter and the other victims at the arena where the NBA superstar played most of his career.

The sold-out memorial service is being held at the Staple Centre, which is home to the Los Angeles Lakers, and is known as the “house that Kobe built”.

The basketball star was killed along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna when the helicopterhe was travelling in crashed in Calabasas, California, north of Los Angeles on 26 January.

Beyonce Knowles-Carter opened the memorial by performing her hit single “XO,” from her 2013 self-titled album.

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The artist said she was there “because I love Kobe”, and said the hit was one of his favourite songs.

She then sang “Halo,” which sparked applause from Ms Bryant.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Singer, Beyonce performs during the Kobe Bryant Memorial Service on February 24, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Image:Singer Beyonce performed at the memorial service

Fighting back tears, Ms Bryant paid tribute to her husband and daughter as she delivered a eulogy.

She said Gianna – also known as Gigi – would kiss her good morning and good night every day, and that she “was a daddy’s girl but I know she loved her mama”.

She spoke of how she would “never get to see her walk down the aisle” and that Gianna “will never get to have a father-daughter dance with her daddy”.

Bryant pictured with his daughter Gianna in Las Vegas in July last year
Image:Bryant pictured with his daughter Gianna in Las Vegas last July

Mrs Bryant recalled the 13-year-old’s advocacy for pay equality in sport, and her dream to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association.

“Gigi would have most likely become the best player in the WNBA,” she said.

Christina Aguilera was one of several singers who performed in memory of Bryant
Image:Christina Aguilera was one of several singers who sang in memory of Bryant

“She would have made a huge difference for women’s basketball…. Gigi was motivated to change the way everyone viewed women in sports.”

Speaking about her “sweet husband,” Mrs Bryant said “Kobe loved me more than I could express”.

“He was mine – he was my everything.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: A fan becomes emotional while watching a live broadcast of the ‘Celebration of Life for Kobe and Gianna Bryant’ memorial service on a fan's iPad outside the Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Some fans were disappointed that the Staples Center didn't broadcast the event on television screens outside for those who didn't have tickets.
Image:Fans watched a live broadcast of the service

“We always talked about how we wanted to be the fun grandparents to our grandchildren. Kobe always told the girls how beautiful and smart they are. He taught them how to be brave and keep pushing forwards when things get tough.”

When her tribute on stage ended, Mrs Bryant was helped down the steps by basketball legend Michael Jordan, who also delivered an emotional speech.

“When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died,” a tearful Jordan said, adding that his death had affected the basketball community.

Jordan detailed the close friendship he and Bryant shared, which he said “maybe surprised people” given they were also competitors.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Michael Jordan speaks during The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant at Staples Center on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Image:Michael Jordan became emotional during his speech

“Everyone always wanted to talk about the comparisons between he and I. I just wanted to talk about Kobe,” he said.

Jordan said Bryant would often ask for tips on his career, which was an initial “aggravation” that turned into a “certain passion”.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 24: Fans leave the Staples Center following the Kobe Bryant & Gianna Bryant Memorial on February 24, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
Image:Fans outside Staples Center held banners and wore shirts in tribute to Bryant

“As I got to know him, I wanted to be the best big brother that I could be.”

In early February, Mrs Bryant announced the service would be held as a “celebration of life” for her late husband and daughter.

Vanessa and Kobe Bryant married in 2001
Image:Vanessa and Kobe Bryant pictured last year

February 24 is a special date for the family as it symbolises both Kobe’s and Gianna’s jerseys and the number of years Kobe and Vanessa were together.

Speakers at the memorial event reflected on Bryant’s impact on basketball and the world, along with music and retrospectives on Bryant’s on-court achievements.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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