Great Britain

Kobe Bryant pilot accused of ‘callous, reckless and depraved’ conduct, in lawsuit blaming him for helicopter crash

KOBE Bryant's pilot Ara Zobayan has been accused of "callous, reckless and depraved conduct" in a lawsuit blaming him for the helicopter crash, filed by the star's grieving wife.

The lawsuit, seen by The Sun, states: "Kobe Bryant was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan".

Vanessa Bryant hit chopper company Island Express with the 72-page lawsuit on the day of his memorial, a month after the deadly crash.

The pilot's conduct is described as "wanton, willful, callous, reckless and depraved" in the court document.

The lawsuit goes on to say that Vanessa wishes to punish the defendants in order to "deter future wrongdoing".

Vanessa is also suing for "pain", "pre-impact terror" and other damages which may have been suffered by Kobe and Gianna before they plunged to their deaths in the doomed helicopter.

The lawsuit reads: "Plaintiffs further claim such damages as the decedent may have suffered between the time of injury and the time of death and for the recovery of which the decedent might have maintained an action had death not ensued including, but not limited to, mental anguish, physical disability, conscious pain and suffering, pre-impact terror, disfigurement..."

Zobayan, who was killed alongside Kobe, 41, daughter Gianna, 13, and six others when the helicopter plunged into a hillside in Calabasas, California, last month, is accused of eight "negligent" actions in the suit including: failing to "monitor and assess the weather," failing to "abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy conditions," and failing to maintain "proper control of the helicopter".

It alleges he failed to get weather data, he didn't stop the flight even when he learned of the cloudy conditions, and he failed to avoid "natural obstacles" in the flight path of the chopper.

The court documents also state that Zobayan was disciplined five years ago for violating the visual flight rule minimums when he flew into airspace with bad visibility.

"Pilot Ara George Zobayan had a duty ... of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent pilot would use under the same or similar circumstances," the suit reads.

"Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable for any and all actions of Ara George Zobayan, including his negligent and careless piloting and operations of the subject helicopter."

It added that the company "knew or should have known" that Zobayan had been previously cited by the FAA for violating the visual flight rules by flying "into an airspace of reduced visibility".

They also accuse the helicopter operators Island Express of disregarding the safety of others by using him despite "advance knowledge" of his "unfitness".

"Island Express Helicopters employed Defendant Zobayan with conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others and authorized or ratified his wrongful conduct, and itself engaged in conduct with malice, oppression or fraud," they claim.

The 27-count complaint claims Island Express was subject to strict visual flight rules and it alleges weather conditions on the day of the tragedy weren't suitable for flying due to low fog.

The pilot and flight instructor was certified to fly in special visibility conditions like sub-optimal weather, but investigations are ongoing into why he flew the chopper on a day so foggy, the LAPD’s own choppers were grounded.

It remains unclear what, if any, role the foggy conditions may have played in the crash.

Vanessa is seeking unspecified damages for the "loss of love, affection, care, society, service, comfort, right to support, companionship, solace or moral support" caused by the loss of her husband and daughter. 

She is also suing for "economic damages" due to loss of earnings and financial support and funeral expenses.

It is not known how much the family is seeking but the amount is likely to be in the millions.

Friends of Zobayan have previously described him as an "amazing" and "attentive" pilot.

One pal Jared Yochim, wrote on Facebook that Zobayan was “an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man.”

“He was not your typical egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are. Ara was a man that always remained cool, calm and collected,” Yochim said.

“As more people that knew Ara open up about him, you’ll only hear words like professional, calculated and loving. He was always good for a laugh.”

The suit comes after LA Lakers star - an 18-time NBA All-Stars champion - died in the devastating crash on January 26.

Kobe, Gianna, and Zobayan all died alongside Sarah Chester and her teenage daughter, Payton.

Orange Coast College basketball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their teenage daughter Alyssa, were also killed.

A month on from the horrific tragedy, a public service due to be held in Los Angeles will offer fans of the sport and the public a chance to reflect on Bryant's life.

Kobe and Gianna's memorial, aptly titled "A Celebration of Life" began at 10am LA time - or 1pm in NYC - on Monday.

He was buried at the Pacific View Memorial Park, close to the couple's home in Orange County, by close friends and family.

In the weeks leading up to the lawsuit and memorial Vanessa had opened up about her family's grief after losing Kobe and Gianna, aka "GiGi."

The loved-up couple had been together for 20 years before the helicopter tragedy last month.

Last night, she shared a about post of soccer star Sydney Leroux's "No. 2" tattoo honoring aspiring athlete Gianna's basketball jersey.

Bill Russell wearing purple and gold in honour of Kobe Bryant

Do you have a story for The US Sun team?

Email us at [email protected] or call 212 416 4552.