The idea that friends or family might perish in a helicopter wreck are unfathomable to most of us — after all, how many of us can afford a helicopter as our primary mode of transportation? For Kobe Bryant, the oft-used method was a way to beat the traffic when traveling to important meetings or other events. But recently, the helicopter he was riding in was trapped inside a dense fog, unable to break free before it crashed.
All the helicopter’s passengers were killed.
Now, Kobe Bryant’s widow — Vanessa Bryant — has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that employed the helicopter’s pilot. She contends that negligence on both the part of the pilot and the company, Island Express Inc., were to blame for the fatal wreck in which nine people were killed. Her daughter was also among the dead.
According to the lawsuit, Island Express was negligent for allowing the helicopter to fly in such dangerous conditions. In fact, the pilot (Zobayan) had been cited by the FAA for failing to abide by a legally binding regulation that says a pilot must be able to see the flight path with the naked eye. Although he was cited, there were no legal actions taken to prevent the occurrence from happening again. Zobayan received counseling and returned to work.
The lawsuit reads, “Acts and omissions of the defendant has manifested such reckless and complete indifference to and a conscious disregard for the safety of others.”
Vanessa Bryant believes her lawsuit will further the cause of preventing fatal accidents in the future. Island Express has had three additional accidents since 1985, two of which were fatal.
The lawsuit contends that part of the problem was due to a lack of onboard warning equipment. The FAA requires air ambulances to use these alarms, but doesn’t force other commercial aircraft to do so. That said, the NTSB recommends that the certain models of helicopter carry the sensors, including the model involved in the crash. The alarm lets pilots know when they are nearing the ground, which can prevent accidents in bad weather conditions.
Vanessa Bryant and her lawyers have yet to publicize the exact amount of compensatory damages they seek from Island Express. The lawsuit also asks the court to award punitive damages, which are meant to punish certain parties for grossly negligent action.
Bryant announced the new lawsuit directly before the memorial for her husband and the others who were killed. She called the memorial a “celebration of life.”