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After Kobe Bryant’s Death, a Look at Wrongful Deaths Involving Helicopter Crashes


The world was shocked January 26, 2020 when a helicopter carrying basketball legend Kobe Bryant and eight other people crashed in the hillside outside of Los Angeles.

Bryant was 41 years old. According to news station KRIV-FOX 26, the helicopter crashed into a hillside around 9:45 a.m. The weather was thick with fog, so much so that the Los Angeles Police Department and other police agencies grounded their helicopters. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

The surprising deaths may fall under wrongful death, depending on what investigators discover and what they determine to be the cause of the crash. A wrongful death is legally defined as when “the wrongful act or neglect of another” caused a death. Wrongful death claims are based on negligence and are often based on the same types of incidents that would have led to a personal injury claim if the victim survived.

If the helicopter pilot was warned that conditions were too dangerous to fly in but still took flight, the deaths could be considered wrongful deaths. If they were severe enough for the LA police to stay grounded, other pilots may have been warned against flying too.

In the last known transmission between the pilot Ara Zobayan and air traffic control, Zobayan said he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer. Information from radar data indicated the helicopter climbed 2300 feet, than made a descending left  turn. The impact was so powerful, that the shattered pieces of the helicopter were scattered to about  500 to 600 feet around the initial impact area of the hillside in Calabasas.

Aviation attorney Justin Green, who flew helicopters in the Marine Corps, told KRIV-FOX 26 that pilots can become disorientated when visibility is bad, losing track of where up and down is. If the conditions were bad enough that the pilot knew there was low visibility, it can be argued that the helicopter should have never taken flight to begin with.

A Calabasas resident told the news station that it was so foggy outside that he couldn’t see the helicopter but heard “some sputtering and then a boom,” reinforcing the view that weather conditions were not appropriate for flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the crash. Usually, the agency releases a preliminary report on crashes 10 days after the incident. The Los Angeles Times reports “The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft – it just doesn’t happen.”

Should the investigations determine the conditions were not suited for flying, victims could sue the pilot’s company for wrongful death claims on the grounds of negligence.  If it is discovered the helicopter had mechanical troubles, the deaths could be wrongful deaths under defective products.

Compensation in wrongful death convictions can result in funeral expenses, replacement of financial support the deceased would have provided had the deceased not been killed, and compensation for loss of services the deceased would have provided.

If you or a loved one have lost someone that you suspect may have been killed in a wrongful death, an experienced attorney can help you fight for the compensation you deserve.

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