The family of a mother and daughter who were killed in a January helicopter crash along with NBA star Kobe Bryant and six others has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company and the estate of the deceased pilot.
Christopher Chester and other relatives of Sarah Chester, 45, and Payton Chester, 13, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. The complaint alleges that negligence on the part of Island Express Helicopters and pilot Ara Zobayan led to the deadly Jan. 26 crash in Calabasas, California. It is the fourth wrongful death lawsuit to be filed by relatives of the crash victims.
Payton Chester played on the same girls’ basketball team as Kobe Bryant’s daughter Gianna, who was also among those who perished in the crash. The victims were on their way from John Wayne Airport in Orange County to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks for a youth basketball game.
According to Law 360, the Chester lawsuit isn’t as detailed in its allegations as the lawsuits filed previously, saying only that the 1991 Sikorsky S-76B took off in “adverse weather conditions caused by low lying clouds.”
“While in transit, the subject helicopter crashed into steep terrain in Calabasas, California. This crash was caused by the negligence of defendants and their agents and employees,” the complaint alleges.
Last month, the family of three members of the Altobelli family and the family of Christina Mauser, the assistant coach of the basketball team, filed similar wrongful death lawsuits. Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, filed the first of the lawsuits in February.
The Bryant lawsuit alleges that Island Express Helicopters failed to equip the helicopter with the appropriate safety technology, including a Terrain Avoidance and Warning System that guides pilots around hills, mountains, buildings, and other obstacles that may be hidden in foggy weather or darkness.
The Bryant lawsuit also alleges that Mr. Zobayan failed to properly monitor and assess the weather conditions and failed to abort the flight knowing that the path was covered in dense fog. Instead, he chose to fly the aircraft under “instrument flight rules,” even when the company was allowed to operate by “visual flight rules” only – a violation the FAA had cited him for in 2015, according to the Bryant complaint.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the helicopter crash. So far investigators have determined that there is no evidence a mechanical failure caused or contributed to the crash. A final report likely won’t come until mid- or late 2021.
Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation and currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. In addition to his Ethiopian Airlines crash clients, Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes.