Vanessa Bryant files wrongful death suit after crash that killed Kobe, Gianna

The lawsuit alleges Island Express Helicopters put the helicopter in the air when conditions were not safe for flying.
Image: Vanessa and Kobe Bryant arrive at the Oscars on March 4, 2018 in Los Angeles.
Vanessa and Kobe Bryant arrive at the Oscars on March 4, 2018, in Los Angeles.Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP

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By Elisha Fieldstadt, Diana Dasrath and Andrew Blankstein

LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant's wife, Vanessa, filed a lawsuit Monday against the company that owned the helicopter that crashed last month, causing the death of her husband, 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and the seven other people on board.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed shortly before a memorial service, described by Vanessa as a "Celebration of Life," for the NBA legend, his teenage daughter and the other victims of the crash was expected to draw thousands to the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Follow the memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant live here

The 72-page lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that Island Express Helicopters put the helicopter in the air when conditions were not safe for flying.

The company and the helicopter's pilot, Ara George Zobayan, had a "duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent pilot would use under the same or similar circumstances," the suit says.

Instead, Zobayan failed to assess weather data prior to takeoff of the doomed Jan. 26 flight, the suit says.

The fog in Los Angeles was so dense on the morning the Sikorsky S-76B crashed into a hillside in Calabasas that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters until the afternoon, LAPD spokesman Joshua Rubenstein said at the time. The department requires 2 miles of visibility and an 800-foot cloud ceiling that weren't there, he said.

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Bryant alleges in the suit that the pilot failed to abort the flight even though he knew of cloudy conditions. The suit also says Zobayan flew the helicopter into conditions in which he couldn't viably navigate using visual references, forcing him to use instrument flight rules (IFR), and failed to avoid or keep a safe distance between the aircraft and obstacles in the flight path.

NBC News previously reported that Zobayan had the proper federal certification to fly by IFR, but Island Express Helicopters did not, and he would have been restricted to the company's licensing.

Bryant is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. She and her lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

A representative for Island Express Helicopters called the crash a tragic accident and said that the company would not be commenting on any pending litigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Elisha Fieldstadt reported from New York, Diana Dasrath and Andrew Blankstein reported from Los Angeles.