Helicopter company sues air controllers for Kobe Bryant crash

National Transportation Safety Board

A tragic case of helicopter crash that killed the 41-year-old retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and eight others, now is supplemented with new indictments. Two air-traffic controllers are blamed for the incident by Island Express, the company that operated the helicopter.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on August 21, 2020. The cross-complaint blames two air traffic controllers who worked on the fateful day for “a series of erroneous acts and/or omissions” that led to the Sikorsky S-76 crash into the hills near Calabasas, California on January 26, 2020, reported CBS News. Following the Federal Aviation Administration request, the names of air-traffic controllers are not made public.

Island Express is facing at least four lawsuits, including one by Bryant’s wife and three filed by relatives of other victims of the accident. In the cross-complaint the company accuses two air traffic controllers for causing the excessive workload and stress level to pilot Ara Zobayan. “The pilot’s workload and stress level in deteriorating weather conditions were unnecessarily overloaded by multiple errors,” stated in the lawsuit.

As the City News Service reported, when the pilot contacted the first air-traffic controller and allegedly asked for radar assistance, his request was denied by the controller who reported “losing the radar and comms probably pretty shortly“. According to the report, a radar contact had not been lost and the services were being denied based only on “a possibility that the contact might be lost at some point in the future“.

Island Express stated that the pilot’s ability to contact the first air controller four minutes after making a request, proves the controller’s prediction of losing contact being wrong. The company blames the controllers that “services could and should have been provided continuously“, according to the City News Service report.

In addition, air traffic controllers are blamed for ineffective inner communication during a shift change just prior to the crash. “Failure to properly communicate termination of radar flight following, incomplete position relief briefing and lack of knowledge of current weather conditions are those failures that significantly impacted the pilot’s ability to fly the aircraft”, stated in the lawsuit.

The misleading communication among the pilot and two air traffic controllers allegedly became the main reason that led to the helicopter to crash. Just before the crash, the pilot reported about climbing when he actually was descending. His manned helicopter hit hilly terrain in thick fog and caught fire killing everyone onboard.


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