*The company that operated the helicopter that crashed in late January, killing Kobe Bryant, his teen daughter and seven others, is suing two air-traffic controllers who they blame for the tragedy.
The suit is in response to a complaint against Island Express Helicopters. The company claims the crash was “caused by a series of erroneous acts and/or omissions” by two air-traffic controllers at Southern California TRACON, which provides air traffic control services to airports in the region.
Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, and several others related to victims of the crash, have filed a lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters.
Berge Zobayan, the brother of pilot Ara George Zobayan, noted in a 7-page response to Vanessa’s wrongful death lawsuit that passengers on the flight knew the risks involved with flying in weather conditions that were reportedly not ideal on that fateful day, CNN reports.
“Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility,” the response said, per TMZ.
The cross-complaint, which was filed in a California Superior Court last week, states that Zobayan contacted the SoCal TRACON facility and requested radar assistance. The request was denied by an air-traffic controller who said, “I’m going to lose radar and comms probably pretty shortly,” according to the lawsuit.
“This denial was improper because radar contact had not been lost and services were being denied based on the possibility that they might be lost at some point in the future,” the lawsuit states. “The fact that (the pilot) was able to contact (TRACON) four minutes later, and its transponder was still observed by the controller, proves that the prediction of lost contact was not accurate and services could and should have been provided continuously.”
According to the complaint, the company alleges that the first air traffic controller and his replacement failed to effectively communicate the situation with the helicopter during a shift change prior to the crash.
The suit accuses the initial air-traffic controller who spoke to Zobayan of “failure to properly communicate termination of radar flight following, incomplete position relief briefing and lack of knowledge of current weather conditions.”