Kobe Bryant knew risks of flying day of crash, pilot's brother says

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·3-min read

The brother of the pilot flying the helicopter that crashed and killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others argued in a court filing Monday that Bryant knew the risks of flying and the pilot shouldn’t be held responsible.

The documents filed by Berge Zobayan, brother of the late pilot Ara Zobayan, are an answer to Vanessa Bryant’s wrongful death lawsuit against Zobayan and Island Express, the charter company. She filed in February. The lawsuit claims Ara Zobayan was flying too fast in heavy fog and failed to assess the weather at every pivotal point of the trip.

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Sacramento Kings on April 13, 2011 at Power Balence Pavilion in Sacramento, 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  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
The pilot's brother filed an answer to the lawsuit by Vanessa Bryant's lawyers after the helicopter crash. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Pilot’s brother claims Bryant knew risks

Berge Zobayan, whose brother was the longtime pilot for the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar, filed the answer in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

“Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility,” the answer said.

The answer references Bryant’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, who died in the crash. They were in a 1991 Sikorsky S-76B en route to a youth basketball game at the Mamba Academy.

Lawsuit accuses Zobayan of negligent conduct

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit claims the pilot failed to monitor and assess the weather that morning, a particularly foggy one in Los Angeles that grounded the police department’s fleet, and failed to abort the flight once in progress. It also alleges the helicopter was unsafe and notes a previous discipline given to Zobayan in 2015 for violating visual flight rules.

Per the lawsuit, the passengers on the helicopter were “killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects.” Lawyers are seeking unspecified damages.

Island Express, which suspended operations after the crash, has not answered to the lawsuit. A case management conference is scheduled for June 22, per the L.A. Times. Vanessa Bryant also filed a lawsuit last week against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after members took photos of the crash site with their personal phones and reportedly shared them.

Families of crash victims sue charter company

The helicopter crash also killed seven others, including Gianna’s teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester. Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and his wife Keri, were on board as was Christina Mauser, an assistant coach on the team.

Two children in the Altobelli family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last month. Mauser’s husband and three children also filed a wrongful death suit. In both suits, only the charter company is named and not Zobayan. They accuse the company of being careless and negligent.

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