A lawsuit was filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court that claims the pilot of the helicopter that crashed January 26 with Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 others on board was reckless and failed to properly monitor the weather.
The case was filed by Bryant’s widow Vanessa, and it accuses the charter company, Island Express Holding Corporation, and its pilot, Ara Zobayan, of improperly flying the Sikorsky S-76B into instrument flight conditions.
The 72-page complaint alleges that the pilot also failed to maintain proper control of the helicopter, failed to avoid natural obstacles, and failed to abort the flight when he learned of cloudy and low visibility conditions.
Island Express said last month it had "halted operations" indefinitely following the crash. A representative for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
FAA records show the company and pilot had the necessary certificates and licenses to offer charter services under Visual Flight Rules, or VFR, conditions. Even though the helicopter was equipped to fly under Instrument Flight Rules, or IFR, and the pilot had earned an instrument rating, the company was not authorized to offer charter flights that operated under IFR rules.
The helicopter struck a hillside near Las Virgenes Road while flying in conditions with limited visibility and low clouds. Zobayan’s last radio transmission to air traffic controllers was that he was trying to climb above clouds, federal officials said.
The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, said a determination on the cause of the accident is likely months – if not a year – away. Investigators moved the wreckage from the crash site to a site in Phoenix for further analysis.