The brother of the pilot flying the helicopter that crashed and killed Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna - as well as seven others - says they knew the risks of flying and the pilot shouldn’t be held responsible.
Court documents filed on Monday by Berge Zobayan, brother of the late pilot Ara Zobayan, answered Vanessa Bryant’s wrongful death lawsuit against Zobayan and Island Express, the charter company.
The lawsuit, filed in February, claims he was flying too fast in heavy fog and failed to assess the weather at every pivotal point of the trip.
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Berge Zobayan, whose brother was the longtime pilot for the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar, filed the answer in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday.
“Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility,” the court documents say.
The answer references Bryant’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, who died in the crash.
They were in a 1991 Sikorsky S-76B en route to a youth basketball game at the Mamba Academy.
Vanessa Bryant’s wrongful death lawsuit
The lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant claims the pilot failed to monitor and asses the weather that morning, a particularly foggy one in Los Angeles that grounded the police department’s fleet, and failed to abort the flight once in progress.
It also alleges the helicopter was unsafe and notes a previous discipline given to Zobayan in 2015 for violating visual flight rules.
Per the lawsuit, the passengers on the helicopter were “killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects.”
Lawyers are seeking unspecified damages.
Island Express, which suspended operations after the crash, has not answered to the lawsuit.
Vanessa Bryant also filed a lawsuit last week against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after members took photos of the crash site with their personal phones and reportedly shared them.
Families of victims sue helicopter company
The helicopter crash also killed seven others, including Gianna’s teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli and his wife Keri, were on board as was Christina Mauser, an assistant coach on the team.
Two children in the Altobelli family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last month. Mauser’s husband and three children also filed a wrongful death suit.
In both suits, only the charter company is named and not Zobayan. They accuse the company of being careless and negligent.