LOS ANGELES - Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, is suing a second helicopter company stemming from the fatal crash in Calabasas that killed her husband, daughter Gianna, and seven others, alleging the Santa Ana-based firm's owner and founder suggested the route for the ill-fated flight and should have aborted it.
The amended Los Angeles Superior Court suit filed Friday additionally names OC Helicopters LLC, which allegedly provided the flight operations for the chopper owned by Island Express Helicopters Inc. and piloted by Ara George Zobayan. A woman who answered the phone at OC Helicopters on Tuesday declined to comment.
According to the amended suit, OC Helicopters owner and founder Richard Webb "suggested the route for this subject fatal flight to Zobayan."
OC Helicopters "improperly failed to tell the Island Express pilot Ara George Zobayan to abort or cancel the flight or turn around when its agent
and employee, Richard Webb, was in communications with defendant Zobayan and monitoring the weather during the flight," the suit states.
Webb personally checked and monitored weather conditions every hour and told Zobayan that based on the weather reports, the flight "was doable and was a good flight plan," the suit alleges.
Investigators work at the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Nine people have been confirmed dead in the crash, among them Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. (Pho (Getty Images)
Webb continued to review weather updates and communicate with Zobayan and sent Zobayan a final weather-related text 20 minutes after the crash,
according to the amended complaint.
Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.
The suit also alleges that Webb regularly discussed weather and routes with Island Express pilots prior to and during flights.
Zobayan's estate and Island Express Helicopters were originally named as defendants when the suit was filed Feb. 24.
Attorneys for the 38-year-old Vanessa Bryant filed additional court papers Friday seeking dismissal of Island Express' cross-complaint against air-
traffic controllers the company blames for the crash, calling the legal effort a "transparent and untenable attempt to forum-shop their way into federal court" and deprive their client of her preference that the case be tried in state court.
The Island Express cross-complaint contends the crash was "caused by a series of erroneous acts and/or omissions" by a pair of air-traffic controllers at Southern California TRACON, or terminal radar approach control. But Vanessa Bryant's attorneys maintain the Island Express claim can only be heard in federal court and that "fortunately, and unsurprisingly, California law prevents such an attempt to abuse and manipulate federal law."
The helicopter, a 1991 Sikorsky S76B piloted by Zobayan, crashed amid heavy fog on Jan. 26 on a Calabasas hillside, killing Zobayan and his eight passengers, including the 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, more commonly known as Gigi.
Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
At least four lawsuits have been filed against Island Express Helicopters in the months since the crash, including those by relatives of other passengers aboard the aircraft.
Earlier Tuesday, Vanessa also filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his department after his deputies allegedly took personal photographs on their phones of the bodies at the scene of the deadly.
The lawsuit claims that Vanessa is in constant fear the photos will be leaked. She is seeking unspecified damages, including punitive damages, claiming Sheriff Villanueva and the department caused her severe emotional distress.
CNS contributed to this report.