More than two months after Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against the helicopter company Island Express and pilot Ara George Zobayan, who operated Kobe’s ill-fated flight, a representative for the pilot is putting the blame on the eight deceased passengers.
In a statement, the rep said told TMZ, “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."
Vanessa’s lawsuit claimed the pilot, Ara George Zobayan, made a series of errors, including failing to properly assess the weather and abort the flight due to foggy conditions. The suit also alleges that he failed to maintain control of the helicopter and to avoid “natural obstacles.”
The docs alleged that in the last seconds of the flight, Zobayan “attempted to maneuver the helicopter up and forward to clear the clouds, then entered a turn sending the helicopter into the steep terrain at approximately 180 miles per hour.”
The grievance also stated that the pilot “was required to fly only in conditions that he could navigate visually” and that Island Express’ “operating certificate limited its pilots to flying only under visual flight rules” and is “not licensed or certified to be flown into instrumental conditions.”
The papers insist Kobe Bryant “was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan, for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects.”
In response to Vanessa’s lawsuit, Island Express told TMZ, “This was a tragic accident. We will have no comment on the pending lawsuit."
Last month, TMZ reported that families of four victims also filed wrongful death lawsuits, claiming that Island Express “negligently and carelessly breached its duty to own, lease, manage, maintain, control, entrust, charter and operate the helicopter in question in a reasonable manner.”
Vanessa filed another lawsuit, this one against the Los Angeles Police Department for sharing graphic photos of the crash scene. The papers claimed that Bryant suffered “severe emotional distress caused by the sheriff’s deputies’ misconduct and the Sheriff’s Department’s mishandling of that misconduct.”
According to the papers obtained by People magazine, Bryant was under the impression that deputies were protecting the crash site for her privacy. The claim said, “In reality, however, no fewer than eight sheriff's deputies were at the scene snapping cell-phone photos of the dead children, parents, and coaches. As the department would later admit, there was no investigative purpose for deputies to take pictures at the crash site. Rather, the deputies took photos for their own personal purposes."
“Rather than formally investigate the allegations to identify the extent of dissemination and contain the spread of the photos, Department leadership reportedly told deputies that they would face no discipline if they just deleted the photos," the claim went on. “Mrs. Bryant was distressed to learn that the Department did not initiate a formal investigation until after the L.A. Times broke the story on or about February 28, and that the Department had taken few if any steps to contain the spread of the photos.”
The claim also brought attention to Vanessa’s concerns about the photos eventually surfacing online. The papers said, “Mrs. Bryant is deeply worried that all copies of the sheriff’s deputies’ photos have not been accounted for, and that it is only a matter of time before she or her daughters encounter them on the Internet."
A spokesperson for the Bryant family told People, “This [filing] solely is about enforcing accountability, protecting the victims and making sure no one ever has to deal with this conduct in the future. When a family suffers the loss of loved ones, they have the right to expect that they will be treated with dignity and respect," the family spokesperson adds. "The Deputies in this case betrayed that sacred trust. This claim is intended to hold the Sheriff’s Department accountable and to prevent future misconduct."