Vanessa Bryant and others have agreed to settle a lawsuit against the helicopter company involved in the deadly 2020 crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, according to a notice in federal court.
Terms of the agreement are confidential and must be finalized, according to the notice filed Tuesday in federal court.
Island Express Helicopters, Inc., the company that operated the Sikorsky helicopter; its owner, Island Express Holding Corp .; the property of the pilot, who died in the accident; and another company agreed to resolve the claims, the document says.
The agreement also resolves the lawsuit of the surviving relatives of John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, a basketball player; mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester; as well as Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser. Documents submitted by Vanessa Bryant’s legal team indicate that the other families were also part of the settlement.
In February, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the cause of the accident was Zobayan’s decision to fly under visual flight rules in cloudy conditions, resulting in his spatial disorientation and loss of control of the aircraft. The board added that “likely” self-induced pressure from Zobayan to get Bryant to her destination and inadequate review of safety management procedures by helicopter operator Island Express contributed to the accident. Flying under visual flight rules through cloud cover was “legally prohibited,” but Zobayan “continued his flight into the clouds,” said NTSB President Robert Sumwalt.
Zobayan, the NTSB said, made a “bad decision” to fly at excessive speed in bad weather, and the helicopter was not in a controlled flight pattern when it crashed into a hillside at 9:45 a.m.
Bryant alleged that “Island Express Helicopters authorized, directed and / or permitted a flight in full knowledge that the helicopter in question was flying in unsafe weather conditions.”
Kobe Bryant, according to the complaint, died “as a direct result of Zobayan’s negligent conduct,” for which “the company is indirectly liable in all respects.” The 27-count lawsuit, which also lists Zobayan’s heirs as defendants, seeks compensatory and punitive damages. The quantity is not specified.
While flying to a youth basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks on January 26, 2020, the 1991 Sikorsky S-76B crashed into the hillside near Las Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street in heavy fog. .
NTSB investigator Bill English said in February that Zobayan informed air traffic control that he was “climbing to 4,000 feet” to clear the clouds. But English said the pilot was experiencing spatial disorientation because the helicopter leaned to the left, away from Highway 101, while communicating with the controller who had descended.
The lawsuit accused Zobayan, Bryant’s longtime pilot, of various acts of negligence, including failing to abort the flight, monitoring and assessing the weather, and failing to maintain a safe distance between natural obstacles and the helicopter.
The Federal Aviation Administration cited Zobayan in 2015 for violating visual flight rule minima, and the FAA operational certificate for Island Express limited its pilots to flying under visual flight rules, not under conditions requiring the use of of instruments.
“On the basis of information and belief, Defendant Island Express Helicopters employed Defendant Zobayan with conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others and authorized or upheld his misconduct, and engaged in malicious conduct himself , oppression or fraud ”, accused the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that the company failed to provide “adequate training and / or supervision” after the FAA subpoena “to ensure that the negligent action was not repeated” and that it “promoted and used unnecessary and unnecessarily risky means of transportation under the circumstances. . ” The complaint also blames the company for not having “an adequate security policy for canceling flights in known unsafe weather conditions.”
Another section of the lawsuit accuses Island Express of negligence for failing to install a ground alarm system on the helicopter. The system could have warned Zobayan that he was approaching a hillside. Federal regulations did not require the helicopter to have the system.