Vanessa Bryant and Families of Crash Victims Settle With Helicopter Company

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the basketball star Kobe Bryant, and the family members of the other victims in a deadly helicopter crash in January 2020 reached a settlement with the charter company that operated the helicopter.

Terms of the settlement were confidential and it is awaiting court approval.

Vanessa Bryant had filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters and its owner, Island Express Holding Corporation, arguing that the company had not properly trained the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, and that he had shown negligence in his flying.

In response to the lawsuit, Island Express Helicopters had denied responsibility for the crash, labeling it “an act of God.” The company countersued two Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers, stating their “series of erroneous acts and/or omissions” had caused the crash.

Kobe Bryant, a longtime member of the Los Angeles Lakers who was recently posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people on board were killed in the crash. They had been traveling to a youth basketball game at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., when the helicopter slammed into a hill near Calabasas, Calif.

In February, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that the crash had most likely been caused by Zobayan’s flying into clouds, in a violation of federal rules. The conditions blinded him and caused him to become disoriented, believing the helicopter was climbing when it was actually descending, they found.

Zobayan had been a longtime pilot for Kobe Bryant and his family. He was likely eager to make the trip for Bryant, despite the fog-shrouded conditions, but there was no indication that Bryant had pressured Zobayan into flying, the yearlong investigation concluded.

Vanessa Bryant and other family members of the crash’s victims also filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, four deputies, the county and its fire department for invasion of privacy and negligence after deputies took and shared unauthorized photos of the victims and the crash site.

That lawsuit is ongoing.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed reporting.

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