Bryant's Widow Names Helo Flight Broker in Suit

 - September 23, 2020, 1:15 PM

More litigation has been filed related to the fatal helicopter crash that killed retired basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in January. Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, who had filed previous lawsuits against the estate of pilot Ara Zobayan and helicopter owner Island Express Helicopters in February, has now added the charter broker that arrange that fateful flight, OC Helicopters, to her complaint.

The suit alleges that OC provided Zobayan with routing information and failed to instruct him to abort the VFR flight before it entered IMC. Further, the complaint alleges that OC personnel instructed Zobayan that the flight was “doable” and were continuing to monitor the flight and en route weather conditions. It states that OC “improperly failed to tell the Island Express pilot Ara George Zobayan to abort or cancel the flight or turn around when its agent and employee, Richard Webb, was in communications with defendant Zobayan and monitoring the weather during the flight.”

While OC acknowledged it acted as a "travel agent and concierge for the Bryant family for many years," it adamantly denied "any responsibility for the accident." In a statement, OC said it "never at any time had 'operational control' of the Sikorsky helicopter operated by Island Express. Ultimate flight decision making authority and responsibility was that of the pilot, Ara Zobayan, alone." OC Helicopters does hold an FAA Part 135 certificate, but flies a sole EC130 under that authorization.

Separately, Bryant is seeking the dismissal of a cross-complaint filed by Island Express against air traffic controllers handling the flight. That cross-complaint charges that a pair of controllers at the Southern California Tracon improperly handled VFR flight following for the accident aircraft.