LOS ANGELES – Vanessa Bryant, widow of the late NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant, has agreed to settle a lawsuit against the pilot and owners of the helicopter that crashed last year, killing the Los Angeles Lakers legend, the Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers.
Vanessa Bryant, her children and relatives of other victims filed a settlement notice Tuesday with a federal judge in Los Angeles, but the terms of the confidential settlement were not disclosed.
If approved by the court, the settlement would end a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit filed against the estate of the pilot and the owner and operator of the helicopter that crashed into a hillside on January 26, 2020.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six other passengers were flying from Orange County to a youth basketball tournament at their Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County. The helicopter encountered heavy fog in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.
Pilot Ara Zobayan climbed sharply and was nearly through the clouds when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter tipped steeply and plunged into the Calabasas foothills, killing all nine on board instantly before the flames engulfed the wreckage.
The other dead were Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. Alyssa and Payton were Gianna’s teammates.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a report in February blaming the pilot’s error for the crash. The NTSB said a series of poor decisions led Zobayan to fly blindly into a wall of clouds where he became so disoriented that he thought he was climbing as the ship sank.
The agency also blamed Island Express Helicopters Inc. for inadequate screening and monitoring of security points.
The settlement agreement would end legal action against Zobayan’s estate, Island Express Helicopters Inc., and its owner, Island Express Holding Corp. The lawsuit alleges that the companies failed to adequately train or supervise Zobayan and that the pilot was careless and negligent when flying in the fog. and should have aborted the flight.
Island Express Helicopters has denied responsibility and said the accident was “an act of God” that it could not control. He countersued two Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers, saying the accident was caused by his “series of wrongdoings and / or omissions.”
The settlement agreement would not include the counterclaim against the federal government.