Vanessa Bryant has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that operated the helicopter involved in the crash that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others last month.
In a 72-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court Monday, Bryant alleges negligence on the part of Island Express Helicopters and pilot Ara Zobayan, who died in the crash, and asks for economic damages, punitive damages, and other relief.
Kobe Bryant and his second-eldest daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas Jan. 26 with seven others while they were on their way to a girls basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy.
The lawsuit comes as thousands gathered at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles to honor Kobe and Gianna at a public memorial service.
The complaint, which lists a "Doe 1" representative for Zobayan as a defendant, alleges the pilot "failed to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff," "failed to obtain proper weather data prior" to the flight, "failed to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy conditions," and "improperly flew the helicopter into instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions," among other things.
It goes on to say that Island Express knew or should have known that Zobayan had previously been cited by the FAA for violating visual flight rules minimums by flying during weather conditions with poor visibility without permission.
The complaint also specifically calls out Island Express for not purchasing and equipping its helicopters with a terrain avoidance warning system, a safety measure the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended in the past but the FAA has not adopted.
In total, the complaint alleges 28 counts of negligence against Island Express and Zobayan.
On the morning of the crash, Zobayan had received special visual flight rules clearance to fly, despite the dense fog and tough visibility conditions, investigators with the NTSB said.
The NTSB said Zobayan told air traffic control he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer just before the aircraft crashed. Investigators have also said the helicopter was 20 to 30 feet from clearing a ridge.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the deadly crash and are focused on the weather as a key factor in the investigation.