Families of victims who died alongside Kobe Bryant sue helicopter company

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's widow, filed a separate wrongful death lawsuit in late February against the helicopter owners and operators.

A man polishes the mural in memory of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, painted hours after they died in a helicopter crash, on the basketball court of a housing tenement in Taguig City, Metro Manila (photo credit: REUTERS)
A man polishes the mural in memory of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, painted hours after they died in a helicopter crash, on the basketball court of a housing tenement in Taguig City, Metro Manila
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Relatives of four of the eight passengers who lost their lives in the deadly helicopter crash that killed former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter filed wrongful death lawsuits against - Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp - the companies that owned and operated the aircraft on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
Two identical lawsuits, seven pages long each, were filed on behalf filed on behalf of the Altobelli and Mauser families in Los Angeles Superior Court on Sunday.
One representing Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, 56; his wife, Keri; and their daughter Alyssa, 14 - submitted by two of their surviving children. The other was filed on behalf Christina Mauser, a 38-year-old who was the top assistant coach of the Mamba girls basketball team, by three of her surviving children.
Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's widow, filed a separate wrongful death lawsuit in late February against the helicopter owners and operators.
Whereas in the Bryant family lawsuit, which seeks unspecified general and punitive damages, named Island Express Helicopters, its holding company and the heirs of its pilot, Ara Zobayan - who was one of those who died in the Jan. 26 crash - as defendants, in the two lawsuits filed on Sunday only the companies are being targeted. .
VANESSA BRYANT filed her family's 72-page complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court as she was joined by thousands of mourners paying tribute to the former Los Angeles Lakers star during a memorial service at the Staples Center in LA, the team’s home arena.
Island Express has repeatedly declined to comment on the litigation.
The Bryant family complaint alleges 28 counts of negligence and breach of duty, accusing the defendants of failing to exercise “ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and “in providing proper and safe aircraft services.”
Among the specific allegations made in the lawsuit, it says Zobayan “failed to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff,” “failed to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy conditions” and “failed to keep a safe distance between the helicopter and natural obstacles.”
It also alleged that Zobayan, an experienced pilot and instructor, improperly piloted the helicopter by visual orientation under limited-visibility conditions that require instrument-guided navigation.
The crash occurred “as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” the Bryant family lawsuit said.
Although Zobayan was licensed to fly by instruments in poor weather, Island Express was only permitted to fly by visual flight rules when carrying paying passengers, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in its initial report on the crash.
THE LUXURY SIKORSKY S-76B helicopter slammed into a hillside northwest of Los Angeles and burst into flames while Bryant and his entourage were en route to a youth sports academy for a girl’s basketball tournament.
Gianna Bryant, the second of Kobe and Vanessa’s four daughters, was a member of the team due to compete that day. Her father, who retired in 2016 after 20 years with the Lakers, was the team’s coach.
The NTSB’s initial crash report did not identify any obvious signs of engine failure or other mechanical problems that may have contributed to the tragedy, but it confirmed reports of low clouds and fog at the time the accident occurred.
The NTSB also said the helicopter was not equipped with any kind of “terrain awareness and warning system,” which might have alerted the pilot that the aircraft was getting dangerously close to the hillside.

Reuters contributed to this report.