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Vanessa Bryant and other families affected by the helicopter crash last year that killed her husband Kobe, their daughters, and seven others reportedly settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the company that owned and operated the vehicle.
The deal resolves allegations against pilot Ara Zobayan, who also was killed, and Island Express Helicopters, the company that employed him, as well as another company involved in operating the flight. In the lawsuit, the families had alleged the company was responsible for Zobayan’s negligence.
Bryant’s attorneys reportedly filed a joint notice of settlement in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Per the filing, “Plaintiffs and Defendants jointly report that they have agreed to settle their claims.” The terms of the settlement, which are confidential, require court approval.
Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were in the helicopter on Jan. 26, 2020, when it slammed into a cloud-obscured hillside in Calabasas. The crash killed Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, and Zobayan 50. They were heading to a basketball game in Thousand Oaks, where Kobe was expected to coach and she was expected to play.
Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board reportedly said Island Express charter pilot Ara Zobayan pushed the limits of bad weather flying rules, climbed into clouds, became disoriented about the helicopter’s position, and made a descending left turn into hilly terrain. The pilot had reportedly said he was climbing to a higher altitude to avoid a cloud layer.
Vanessa Bryant filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Feb. 2020, and the Altobelli, Chester, and Mauser families were also identified as plaintiffs in the settlement. The lawsuit was filed on the same day a memorial celebration for Kobe and Gianna Bryant was held at the Staples Center. In a separate case, Bryant is also reportedly suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Alex Villanueva, alleging deputies took and shared grisly photos of the crash scene.
A lawyer for the Altobelli and Mauser families reportedly told the Washington Post he was pleased the victims would “get some relief from their terrible losses.”
Island Express has reportedly filed its own complaint against the Federal Aviation Administration, which is not covered by the settlement. The company alleges that air traffic controllers mishandled a shift change before the crash and weren’t able to keep Zobayan safe. The NTSB ruled out any responsibility on the part of the controllers, but its conclusions are not binding in lawsuits and cannot generally be used as evidence.