Ara Zobayan's Relative Responds to Wrongful Death Suit in Kobe Bryant Crash

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2020

Jennifer Hudson sings a tribute to former NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were killed in a helicopter crash Jan. 26, before the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Huh)
Nam Huh/Associated Press

A relative of Ara Zobayan—the pilot in the January helicopter crash that killed all on board, including Kobe and Gianna Bryant and six other passengers—has responded to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant.

The response argues that blame for the crash should not fall completely on Zobayan, per 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."

Bryant's lawsuit has accused Island Express Helicopters and Zobayan of "failing to abort the flight, failing to monitor and assess the weather, and failure to keep a safe distance between natural obstacles and the helicopter."

The lawsuit also accused Zobayan of negligence and failure "to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft."

Finally, it argues that Kobe Bryant died "as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan" and holds Island Express Helicopters "vicariously liable in all respects."

At question in the civil trial—if there isn't a settlement—will be whether the aircraft should have responsibly been flying on the day of the crash, whether it was even authorized to fly in conditions with poor visibility and whether Island Express Helicopters properly responded to a 2015 Federal Aviation Administration citation against Zobayan for "violating visual flight rules minimums."

TMZ reported that "the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies grounded their fleet the morning of the crash due to fog and poor visibility. The pilot had to circle around the Griffith Park area for 15 minutes before being cleared to fly to the Mamba Academy up north."

The National Transportation Safety Board's initial report on the crash found no evidence of engine failure or mechanical issues, though the investigation is ongoing.