Inside Vanessa Bryant’s New Lawsuit Over Kobe and Gianna’s Deaths

Vanessa Bryant is taking legal action against the company that owned the helicopter that crashed into a California hillside on Jan. 26, killing her husband, former NBA star Kobe Bryant; their daughter Gianna; and seven others.

On Monday, Feb. 24, she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters, making a number of damning claims against the company and the pilot of the doomed flight. Here’s what to know.

Vanessa Bryant on the red carpet in 2018
Vanessa Bryant on the red carpet in 2018 | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

A summary of the crash that killed Kobe and Gianna Bryant

All nine people aboard the Thousand Oaks, California-bound helicopter died when it crashed shortly after taking off from Los Angeles. The group had been on its way to a basketball tournament at Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy, where Gianna was expected to play.

Investigators are still working to determine the exact cause of the accident — and it could take at least a year before they figure it out. But multiple sources have said the weather might have contributed to it, as the helicopter was traveling in foggy conditions.

In his last transmission, pilot Ara Zobayan told air traffic controllers that he was going to try to clear a cloud layer. Moments later, the helicopter crashed into a hillside and sparked a fire.

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My Gigi

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Vanessa Bryant has filed a wrongful death lawsuit

The lawsuit was filed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court just before a public memorial for the victims of the crash. According to TMZ, it accuses Island Express Helicopters of negligence by allegedly allowing the helicopter to fly in unsafe conditions.

The lawsuit also says the company is liable for Zobayan’s alleged actions, including “negligent and careless piloting,” per The Washington Post. It says that Zobayan, an experienced pilot who frequently traveled with Bryant, allegedly failed to properly assess the weather and failed to ground the helicopter when he knew of the foggy conditions.

The lawsuit goes on to say that Zobayan allegedly flew in conditions he was not cleared for and failed to keep a safe distance between the helicopter and natural obstacles.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified dollar amount; Vanessa Bryant is seeking punitive damages, which TMZ says could amount to millions.

A spokesperson for Island Express Helicopters later shared a statement with TMZ that said: “This was a tragic accident. We will have no comment on the pending litigation.”

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My girls and I want to thank the millions of people who’ve shown support and love during this horrific time. Thank you for all the prayers. We definitely need them. We are completely devastated by the sudden loss of my adoring husband, Kobe — the amazing father of our children; and my beautiful, sweet Gianna — a loving, thoughtful, and wonderful daughter, and amazing sister to Natalia, Bianka, and Capri. We are also devastated for the families who lost their loved ones on Sunday, and we share in their grief intimately. There aren’t enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon. I’m not sure what our lives hold beyond today, and it’s impossible to imagine life without them. But we wake up each day, trying to keep pushing because Kobe, and our baby girl, Gigi, are shining on us to light the way. Our love for them is endless — and that’s to say, immeasurable. I just wish I could hug them, kiss them and bless them. Have them here with us, forever. Thank you for sharing your joy, your grief and your support with us. We ask that you grant us the respect and privacy we will need to navigate this new reality. To honor our Team Mamba family, the Mamba Sports Foundation has set up the MambaOnThree Fund to help support the other families affected by this tragedy. To donate, please go to To further Kobe and Gianna’s legacy in youth sports, please visit Thank you so much for lifting us up in your prayers, and for loving Kobe, Gigi, Natalia, Bianka, Capri and me. #Mamba #Mambacita #GirlsDad #DaddysGirls #Family ❤️

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Vanessa Bryant honored Kobe and Gianna at their public memorial

After filing the lawsuit, Bryant went to the Staples Center to attend a public memorial for her husband and daughter. She took the stage and gave a moving eulogy, in which she spoke highly of her lost loved ones and shared her fondest memories of them.

Bryant said she believed Gianna, 13, was destined to play in the WNBA and expressed sadness at never being able to see her daughter live out her dreams. She also spoke about Kobe’s basketball days and how he had been looking forward to growing old with her after his 2016 retirement from the NBA.

At the end of her speech, she noted how close Gianna and Bryant, 41, truly were.

“God knew they couldn’t be on this earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together,” she said.

Bryant has promised fans that she will try to be strong and continue Kobe and Gianna’s legacies as best as she can.

Read more: The Interesting Story Behind Kobe Bryant’s Name