The often-tortuous post-crash litigation process has been cut short in the Kobe Bryant accident aftermath after the families of the deceased passengers settled their suit against pilot Ara Zobayan and aircraft operator Island Express Helicopters. The families, including Bryant’s widow and mother of their teenage daughter who was killed in the crash, alleged it was Zobayan’s decision to press on in IMC on the VFR flight that killed their loved ones and that the company was also responsible for that decision. Bryant, his daughter Gianna and six other passengers were killed along with Zobayan when the Sikorsky S-76 hit a hillside in heavy fog in Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26, 2020. The helicopter was on its way to Bryant’s nearby youth basketball academy for a tournament. No terms of the settlement were released and neither the plaintiffs nor defendants would comment to local media.
The legal wrangling isn’t over, however. Island Express is suing the FAA, saying the controllers on duty that morning mishandled the flight. Although the NTSB said controllers were not at fault for the accident, their reports are not generally admitted as evidence. The company alleges that the crash happened during a bungled shift change in the control facility.
Island Express is going to have a tough time winning their suit. The Pilot In Command is responsible for the safe operation of the flight.