Vanessa Bryant Agrees To Settle with Helicopter Company in Kobe Bryant Crash
The widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant has reached a confidential settlement to end her lawsuit against those she blamed for the death of her husband and daughter in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles in January 2020.
Less than a month after the accident, Vanessa Bryant sued the companies that owned and operated the helicopter, as well as the estate of the late helicopter pilot, accusing them of negligence and causing the wrongful death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
She sought damages in return for the losses she suffered and was joined by three other families who lost loved ones in the crash that killed nine.
Those families also sued and are part of the settlement that resolves their consolidated lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters, Island Express Holding Corp., and the estate of Ara Zobayan, the pilot who also died in the crash.
“The material terms of the settlement and releases are known to the settling parties and include that the terms of the settlement are confidential,” according to a court document filed Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded earlier this year that Zobayan’s poor decision-making was the likely cause of the crash. In her suit, Vanessa Bryant said Zobayan “failed to abort the flight when he knew of cloudy conditions” and failed to “keep a safe distance between the helicopter and natural obstacles,” among other alleged failures.
“As a direct and proximate result of the aforesaid negligence and carelessness on the part of defendant Zobayan, Kobe Bryant was killed,” the lawsuit states.
She accused the helicopter owner, Island Express Holding Corp., of failing to equip its helicopter with a traffic avoidance and warning system. She also stated that Island Express Helicopters, the helicopter’s operator, knew or should have known that they were prohibited from operating that helicopter under instrument flight rules, which are used in foggy or cloudy conditions like those on the morning of the crash.
In a separate lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles, Vanessa Bryant has accused a county public safety worker of improperly sharing photos of her deceased husband and daughter from the crash site. The county says her lawsuit has no basis and is fighting back.
On the morning of January 26, 2020, a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter carrying the nine people had departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County and was bound for Camarillo, with the passengers on board heading to Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where Kobe was set to coach Gianna in a tournament game.
However, the helicopter crashed in Calabasas amid heavy fog, killing everyone on board.
Also killed in the crash was 56-year-old John Altobelli, a longtime coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team, his 46-year-old wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa, who was a teammate of Gianna’s.
Sarah Chester, 45, and her 13-year-old daughter Payton, who also played with Gianna, died as well, along with 38-year-old Christina Mauser, one of Bryant’s assistant coaches on the Mamba Academy team.
The 50-year-old pilot, Ara Zobayan, was also killed.