1 year since Kobe Bryant's death, loss and lawsuits still fresh

The chopper encountered thick fog at the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles

1 year since Kobe Bryant's death, loss and lawsuits still fresh

Since Tuesday marks one year since the Jan. 26 catastrophe, family and friends of their beloved Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, along with seven others from the chopper state the sense of loss remains fresh.

The Sikorsky S-76 went down in Calabasas, Calif., about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Bryant was headed from his Orange County home to his daughter's tournament in his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. He had been struck by three other brothers and his wife, Vanessa.

Ara Zobayan, an experienced pilot who regularly flew Bryant, climbed the helicopter harshly and had almost succeeded in breaking through the clouds when the craft took the abrupt left turn and plunged into the mountainous, oak-studded hills below.

After the chopper struck the floor, it was flying at about 184 miles and descending at a speed of more than 4,000 feet per minute. The effect caused a crater and scattered debris over an area the size of a soccer field in the Calabasas hills. Flames engulfed the wreckage, but burns on the bodies were decided to have occurred after death.

An autopsy later determined the pilot didn't have drugs or alcohol in his system, and all nine continued instantly fatal injuries once the helicopter slammed into the hillside.

One of the most well-known sports characters in Los Angeles and a star around the globe, 41-year-old Bryant was beyond recognition when his body has been discovered outside the wreckage of this chopper; his remains had to be identified by his fingerprints.

Alyssa and Payton were Gianna's teammates.

The aircraft did not have a device called the Terrain Awareness and Warning System, which signals when an aircraft is in danger of hitting the ground. Even though the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the system be mandatory for helicopters, the Federal Aviation Administration only needs it to get air ambulances. The two California's senators have called for the FAA to support that the apparatus in the wake of the tragedy.

The NTSB hasn't concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but stated there was no indication of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76. A public meeting is scheduled for the morning of Feb. 9"to ascertain the probable cause" of the crash, the NTSB declared earlier this season.

Bryant and his daughter were honored last year in a star-studded public memorial on Feb. 24, 2020 in the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, where Bryant spent the majority of his own two-decade profession with the Lakers. The date for the memorial -- 2/24 -- corresponded with the No. 24 jersey he wore and the No. 2 worn by Gianna. More than 20,000 were in attendance.

THE LAWSUITS
1 year after the crash, Vanessa Bryant and the families of the other victims whose lives were lost have filed suits in relation to the deaths.

Wrongful death, neglect

The same day since the February 2020 memorial service, Vanessa Bryant filed a protracted lawsuit alleges that Zobayan was careless and negligent to fly in the fog and should have aborted the flight.

Zobayan's brother, Berge Zobayan, has stated in a court filing that Bryant knew the risks of helicopter flying and his survivors are not entitled to compensation from the pilot's home. The helicopter firm, Island Express, stated they are not responsible for damages, calling the crash, among other things,"an act of God" and"an unavoidable accident" which has been beyond their control.

"Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part from the negligence or fault of plaintiffs or their decedent, such as their understanding and voluntary experience with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial element in causing their purported damages, for this answering defendant bears no responsibility," Zobayan composed in his May 2020 court filing.

About four months following the crash, family members of four passengers killed joined Bryant in filing wrongful death lawsuits contrary to the companies that owned and operated the aircraft.

The suits on behalf of the Altobellis and Mauser failed to name Zobayan or his representative for a defendant but were filed against Island Express Helicopters, Inc., which operated the Sikorsky, and its owner, Island Express Holding Corp..

In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant resisted the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department claiming deputies shared unauthorized photographs of the crash.

"This lawsuit is about accountability and about preventing this disgraceful behavior from happening to other families in the future who have suffered loss," Vanessa Bryant's attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement at the moment. "The department formally refused Mrs. Bryant's requests for advice saying it was'unable to help' with any inquiry and had no legal responsibility to do so. It's currently for a court to inform the section what its obligations are."

Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously told news outlets that eight deputies shared or took picture photos of this scene which he ordered the pictures deleted. The sheriff said the department has a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos, but it doesn't apply to accident scenes.

"This was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no more exist," Villanueva formerly told NBC News. "We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station by themselves and had confessed they had taken them and they'd deleted them. And we are content that those involved did this."

Vanessa Bryant's lawsuit alleges the sheriff's actions constituted a"cover-up" of their misconduct. The lawsuit claims the photos could still exist.

"Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the notion of strangers gawking in images of her deceased husband and kid and she lives in fear that their children will one day face horrific images of their loved ones on the internet," the suit states.

The sheriff's department called the crash"a catastrophic day for tens of thousands of people throughout the globe," based on a USA Today report.

"Our hearts go out to the two sufferers' families and their loved ones as we approach the anniversary of this tragic day," the division stated.

In December 2020, Vanessa Bryant's mother filed a suit against her daughter claiming she's owed years of pay for working as an unpaid assistant and support promised by the basketball legend.

"Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant's guarantee didn't find the light of day as he's currently dead and Vanessa Bryant took each and every step she could to void and cancel all Kobe's promises," the lawsuit claims, claiming that Vanessa Bryant never meant to honor those wishes.

Vanessa Bryant issued a statement Thursday saying her mother was trying to"extort a financial windfall," the Los Angeles Times reported.

The widow's statement said her and her husband let her mother to live for free in one of the properties on the tony Newport Beach shore but never promised anything discouraged her from providing for herself.

"She was a grandmother who had been supported by me along with her son-in-law in my petition," Vanessa Bryant said. "She now wants to back charge me $96 per hour supposedly working 12 hours per day for 18 years for watching her grandchildren. In reality, she just occasionally babysat my older women when they were toddlers."

Vanessa Bryant stated that before this year, she began looking for a new home for her mother and her mum gave a TV interview in which she claimed she was being forced from her home and also to return a luxurious car.

"Even then betrayal, I had been willing to provide my mom with yearly support for the rest of her life, and that was not good enough," Vanessa Bryant said. "She, instead, contacted me through intermediaries ‒ contrary to what she claims, my phone number has not changed ‒ and demanded $5 million, a home and a Mercedes SUV."

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