Vanessa Bryant Settles Lawsuit Against Pilot’s Estate
Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the late, great NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, has agreed to settle a lawsuit against the pilot and owners of the helicopter that crashed last year that sadly killed the Bryants’ daughter, Gianna, and seven others. If approved by the court, the settlement would end a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed against the estate of the pilot and the owner and operator of the helicopter that crashed into a hillside on January 26, 2020.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and six other passengers were flying from Orange County to a youth basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County last year when the helicopter encountered thick fog in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles. Pilot Ara Zobayan climbed sharply and had nearly broken through the clouds when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter banked abruptly and plunged into the Calabasas hills below, killing all nine aboard instantly before flames engulfed the wreckage. It’s unknown why Zobayan made this sudden, life-ending maneuver.
Amongst the others killed in the crash were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa, Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team, as well as Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. Alyssa and Payton were Gianna’s teammates.
The crash was investigated more thoroughly earlier this year, with the National Transportation Safety Board releasing a report in February that blamed pilot error for the crash. The NTSB said a series of poor decisions led Zobayan to fly blindly into a wall of clouds where he became so disoriented he thought he was climbing when the craft was plunging. The agency also faulted Island Express Helicopters Inc. for inadequate review and oversight of safety matters. The settlement agreement would end legal action against Zobayan’s estate, Island Express Helicopters Inc. and its owner, Island Express Holding Corp. The suit alleged the companies didn’t properly train or supervise Zobayan and that the pilot was careless and negligent for flying in fog and should have aborted the flight.