COMMENTARY: Vanessa Bryant is right for lawsuit against agency responsible for Kobe’s, Gianna’s death


Joey Zanotti / Wikimedia Commons

Last month, Vanessa Bryant announced that she would be pressing charges against helicopter company Island Express Corp., which was responsible for the death of her husband, Kobe, and daughter, Gianna, along with seven others.

In the wake of travesty and grief, Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa continues to fight for justice. On Monday, Feb. 24, Mrs. Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Los Angeles against Island Express Corp. and Island Express Helicopters for their negligent actions that killed her husband, daughter and seven other people in Calabasas, California last month.

According to ESPN, Ara Zobayan’s successor, “Doe 1,” is also being charged. Zobayan, Bryant’s frequent pilot and chief pilot for Island Express, had logged more than 8,000 hours of flying experience at the time of the crash.

Per the LA Times, the charges against Zobayan include: 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.

While I agree with Vanessa’s decision to file a lawsuit, the timing seems odd. According to NBC, the lawsuit was filed shortly before “Celebration of Life,” a memorial service held for the nine victims of the crash at Staples Center. An argument could be presented that Vanessa’s decision seems too abrupt and impulsive. After all, plaintiffs have two years to pursue a wrongful death claim  in California.

Yet, it is important to sympathize with her. A helicopter crash just stripped the father of her children and most importantly her beloved daughter, Giana, away from her. That devastating helicopter crash could have been prevented.

According to NBC, before Zobayan took off the morning of the crash, the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters until the afternoon as the fog surrounding Los Angeles was deemed too dense to fly. LAPD requires two miles of visibility and an 800-foot cloud ceiling for its helicopters to be cleared to fly.

There is absolutely no good reason for any pilot to fly under such harsh conditions. Yes, Zobayan was a seasoned pilot, but no matter how skilled you are at maneuvering through bad weather, chances are that nature will win.

Let’s say that perhaps Zobayan felt a strong sense of obligation and urgency to transport one of his most loyal customers, Bryant, to his daughter’s youth basketball tournament. Let’s pretend that Bryant and company insisted on flying despite the unfavorable conditions. Those are still not convincing reasons to risk nine lives (eight passengers, one pilot). The basketball tournament, no matter how important, could have waited.

Some risks are just not worth taking; especially when multiple lives are at stake. Sure, sometimes it is okay to take risks; it’s no secret that Bryant took plenty of risks on the basketball court. But basketball is just a game. Sometimes it’s okay to put the “Mamba Mentality” aside and prioritize the safety and well-being of your passengers.

Vanessa has every right to file a lawsuit. Yes, it may seem abrupt but it is important to abstain from bombarding her with harsh criticism at the moment; let her grieve. The accident could have been avoided and her beloved husband and daughter could still have been with her.

As Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told NBC, “if we weren’t flying in that weather, why was anybody else flying?”