Kobe Bryant's widow agrees to settle lawsuit over helicopter crash

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, has agreed to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit over the helicopter crash that killed the former NBA star and their teenage daughter, Gianna, according to court records.

Bryant was joined in the case by families of the other six crash victims, who also agreed to the settlement. 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.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, according to a notice filed in US District Court for the Central District of California.

On the morning of January 26, 2020, Kobe and Gianna Bryant were flying across Los Angeles to a youth basketball tournament. The helicopter disappeared into low clouds near the city of Calabasas before slamming into a hillside, killing all nine people on board.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board laid blame for the crash on Zobayan. Investigators concluded that when he encountered poor weather, he should have slowed and sought help from air traffic controllers. Instead, they found he pushed on and likely became disoriented in the clouds, thinking he was climbing when the helicopter actually was in a dive.


The NTSB said Island Express was not approved to operate in such weather, but didn't conclude that Zobayan was wrong to start the flight, instead blaming decisions he made in the air.

In the lawsuit, the families of the passengers alleged the company was responsible for Zobayan's negligence. They alleged he hadn't done enough to check the weather and didn't fly safely.

Attorneys for Zobayan and Island Express didn't respond to a request for comment.

The crash also killed Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter's basketball team; and John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa.

Kevin Boyle, a lawyer for the Altobelli and Mauser families, said he was pleased the victims would “get some relief from their terrible losses.”

“They are wonderful families who deserve the moon,” he said.

Island Express has filed its own complaint against the Federal Aviation Administration, which is not covered by the settlement. The company alleges that air traffic controllers fumbled 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.

Bryant was one of basketball's all-time greats and a widely loved figure in Los Angeles, where he made his career playing for the Lakers. His death stunned the city and the sports world.

Bryant regularly travelled by helicopter to escape the city's notorious gridlock and have more time with his family. He had regularly flown with Zobayan on the Sikorsky S-76B that was involved in the crash.