Vanessa Bryant's Lawsuit Alleges Helicopter Company Employed Pilot With 'Disregard of Rights or Safety of Others'

Vanessa Bryant's lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters Inc., the owner of the helicopter in the crash that killed Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and their daughter Gianna Bryant, accused the company of hiring pilot Ara Zobayan with a "conscious disregard of the rights and safety" of passengers. Kobe, Gianna and six other passengers were killed in the Jan. 26 crash in Calabasas, California. Bryant filed the lawsuit on Monday.

The lawsuit accuses Zobayan of being negligent in several ways, including canceling the flight, failing to keep a close eye on the weather and failing to keep a safe distance from natural obstacles, reports the Los Angeles Times. Bryant also noted Zobayan was cited by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2015 for breaking visual flight rule minimums. Island Express also had an FAA certificate that only allowed its pilots to fly with visual flight rules, and not in conditions that required using instruments.

"On information and belief, Defendant Island Express Helicopters employed Defendant Zobayan with conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others and authorized or ratified his wrong conduct, and itself engaged in conduct with malice, oppression, or fraud," the complaint reads.

The lawsuit accused Island Express of not providing pilots with enough training and supervision after the 2015 citing to make sure it did not happen again.

The company, which ceased operations after the crash, "promoted and engaged in unnecessary and needlessly risky means of transport under the circumstances," the complaint reads. It also did not have "an adequate safety policy for cancellation of flights into known unsafe weather conditions."

Another portion of the lawsuit points out that Island Express never installed terrain awareness warning systems (TWAS), which would have warned Zobayan he was nearing a hillside. The FAA does not require the system, although the NTSB has recommended the system in the past.

Bryant filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court Monday, and accused Island Express of failing "to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft" and was negligent. The company "authorized, directed and/or permitted a flight with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions."

Bryant's death was the "direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan," the complaint reads, and the company is "vicariously liable in all respects."
The lawsuit lists 27 counts and names Zobayan's estate as a defendant. Bryant is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Bryant and Gianna were honored with a Celebration of Life memorial at the Staples Center Monday.

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"God knew they couldn't be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to him together," Vanessa said during the memorial. "Babe, you take care of our Gigi. And I got Nati, Bibi and Coco. We're still the best team. We love and miss you, Boo Boo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day. We love you both and miss you. Forever and always. Mommy."

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