Kobe Bryant Disaster Brings Wrongful Death Lawsuit & Questions Of Negligence

The loss of one of basketball’s brightest stars, Kobe Bryant, was a shock to the nation, as there were no health or other medical indicators that the country was about to lose a great athlete. Instead, the death of Kobe Bryant came as a result of the helicopter he was taking with his daughter crashing into the ground during a routine trip from one part of the Los Angeles area to another.

Because the crash was so recent at the time of this writing, the investigation is still ongoing, and the final ruling of the investigators may not be made public for as long as a year. However, some matters of public record are already known. The helicopter had to take extra precautions due to fog coming into the local area, and the crash occurred because the aircraft emerged from the fog at a steep descent it couldn’t recover from.

So while the official investigation ruling won’t be known for some time, it still poses the question, “Who is at fault for this accident?”

Always Respect The Weather

For people that live in more climate-controlled areas like dense urban centers, it can often be easy to forget just how helpless people—and vehicles—can be when at the mercy of bad weather. Fog or a rainstorm doesn’t appear to be very threatening when you’re in a condo, apartment, or house, sipping on a drink, watching from the safety of a window. But once you’re mobile, especially in a vehicle that moves through all three dimensions, like aircraft, the weather becomes a much bigger factor in determining safety and whether it is advisable to travel.

This is why, as much as people may complain, flight cancellations can—and do—occur at airports. While people may complain that they aren’t able to take their flight on the day that they wished, this is still a bearable inconvenience, compared to the tragedy of the loss of a loved one’s life due to an entirely avoidable aircraft disaster. Having to reschedule a flight is temporary discomfort. Losing a loved one to a crash is permanent.

The Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Disaster

Details continue to emerge about the helicopter crash that took the life of all passengers, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter. However, some things are already known. The fog had settled into the Los Angeles area as the helicopter took to the sky. The pilot was to take passengers from Orange County to Ventura County and requested a type of flight known as special VFR, or visual flight rules. VFR waives normal flight rules to consider the weather.

So, for example, if an area is normally considered a “controlled” air space and flight are normally not allowed in that area at lower altitudes, those rules would be temporarily suspended if weather conditions had a cloud “ceiling” of lower than 1000 feet, or if visibility was reduced to less than three miles. The pilot during this particular flight requested VFR and was granted it, being advised to follow freeways and other visible landmarks to use as a visual reference for navigating when not relying on instrumentation.

However, where the investigation is still ongoing is what happened in the final moments of the flight. The pilot reported being caught in the fog and advised air traffic controllers that the helicopter would be taken up to an altitude of 4000 feet to get better bearings. What instead happened was that at about the 2300 foot mark, the aircraft stopped ascending, veered left and downwards, and came out of the fog at a speed that made it too difficult to avoid the ground.

Finding Fault

Unfortunately, with incidents as complex as this, answering the question “who is responsible” will take time. Until the official investigation is concluded, saying that one person, such as the pilot is solely responsible, or another, such as air traffic controllers giving inadequate directions, is speculation. As with any attempt to take a responsible party to court for negligence, personal injury, or even wrongful death, the evidence is crucial in convincing a jury to rule in your favor.

This is why, as with traffic accidents, or harm as a result of premises liability on someone’s property, proper investigation is required, with some ruling about the incident made by a reliable authority or organization. In the case of aircraft incidents involving civil aviation, an investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). As with police, the investigation process is similar, examining the crash site, interviewing relevant participants including air traffic controllers, going over flight data, such as radar tracking, radio communications, and, of course, the “black box” that records flight details of the aircraft itself, if it has survived the crash.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an aircraft incident or even lost a friend or family member, talk to a personal injury or wrongful death attorney. But be prepared to wait until the official investigation concludes before moving forward.


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