Vanessa Bryant Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Island Express

Nicholas Morine

Vanessa Bryant has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express — the helicopter company responsible for operating the flight which ended in the tragic death of her husband, Kobe Bryant, their daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others. According to a report from TMZ, the suit alleges that the extremely foggy weather that day presented a serious danger to potential flight operations, the low ceiling of the fog acting as a blinding agent. Beyond that, the case alleges that Island Express was only permitted to operate under visual flight rules, or VFR, as opposed to IFR, or instrument flight rules — the latter state of affairs also being referred to as "blind flying."

The aircraft's speed at the time of impact — listed by the lawsuit as 180 mph, in a steep decline — was also listed as an aggravating factor. The pilot at the controls on the day of the fatal accident, Ara George Zobayan, was named as "reckless," per TMZ, as was Island Express as an operator.

In addition to claiming that the weather conditions were not suitable for flying, the lawsuit also calls for restitution for "pre-impact" terror, or the emotional trauma presumably suffered both by the basketball star and his daughter in the moments before the helicopter crashed.

A follow-up report from TMZ specifies that it is unlikely that Island Express will remain in business following the conclusion of the lawsuit, and others which are likely to be launched in the coming days. The report states that the company is only outfitted with insurance amounting to $50 million in liability coverage, an amount which may be deemed insufficient enough given the gravity of the tragedy and the likely number of claimants. Insurance expert Matt Drummelsmith detailed that since the incident will almost certainly be chalked up to pilot error, it is extremely unlikely that Island Express will be able to re-attain insurance, essentially forcing the operation to shut down.

According to TMZ, the lawsuit also states that the helicopter was "not safe," although any particulars on this score were reportedly not present.

"There are no indications that this is a repeated incident and there are no signs that this incident is a trend with Mr. Zobayan," the incident report read.

"[Zobayan] admitted his error, took responsibility for his action, and was willing to take any other necessary steps toward compliance."