Kobe Bryant and Daughter Gianna May Have Survived and Suffered Helicopter Impact, According to Vanessa's Lawsuit

Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant may have survived the helicopter impact, according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by his widow, Vanessa Bryant. Vanessa claims Bryant and Gianna suffered "pain and anguish" between the time of the helicopter crashed into a hill in Calabasas, California and the time of their deaths on Jan. 26. The lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters Inc., the owner of the helicopter, lists Vanessa and her surviving daughters as plaintiffs.

In the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, Vanessa writers that she and her daughters are seeking "damages (Kobe or Gianna) may have suffered between the time of injury and the time of death and for the recovery of which the deceased might have maintained an action had death not ensued including, but not limited to, mental anguish, physical disability, conscious pain and suffering, pre-impact terror, disfigurement, and further considering the aggravating circumstances attendant upon the fatal injury."

The suit claims pilot Ara Zobayan was negligent and should not have flown that Sunday morning due to the cloudy conditions over Southern California, reports Yahoo News. The lawsuit lists eight ways Zobayan was negligent, including flying into conditions he was not cleared for, failing to understand the weather conditions and failing to control the aircraft.

Vanessa also accuses Island Express of having "promoted and engaged in unnecessary and needlessly risky means of transport under the circumstances." The company did not have "an adequate safety policy for cancellation of flights into known unsafe weather conditions." The lawsuit also cites eyewitnesses who said Zobayan piloted the helicopter in an "erratic and treacherous" way.

Island Express, which ceased all operations after the crash, has not commented on the lawsuit. TMZ reported the company cannot afford it, as the company reportedly "had liability insurance coverage totaling $50 million" and it is not clear how that would be distributed to the families of the crash victims.

Bryant and Gianna were two of the eight passengers of the crash. The others were John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah and Payton Chetster; and Christina Mauser. Zobayan also died in the crash.

Vanessa is the first family member to file a lawsuit against Island Express, but TMZ reported the other families have hired attorneys.

The NTSB is still investigating the crash and the Los Angeles County Coroner's final autopsy will determine if Gianna and Bryant survived the impact. In its preliminary report, the NTSB said the helicopter's engine did not fail before the crash.

Meanwhile, experts have debated whether or not the helicopter should have left the ground in the first place that morning, considering the heavy fog in the area.

"This was totally avoidable, and on the part of some people I can go as far as to say irresponsible," Robert Ditchey, a longtime airplane pilot, aeronautical engineer and former airline executive, recently told USA Today. "Here's one of the most important people in the world who comes to a tragic end like this and you say, 'Why? What the hell happened?'"


Bryant, 41, played 20 seasons for the Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 2016. The Lakers hosted a Celebration of Life memorial for Bryant and Gianna on Monday at the Staples Center.

Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images