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Will Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Crash Lead to Litigation?

The loss of Kobe Byrant, and 8 other souls, in a helicopter crash earlier this week is a national tragedy.  Kobe was one of the best basketball players of all time and a role model to millions of people.  How did this happen and who is to blame?

Helicopter accidents may seem rare; however, they actually crash about 35% more frequently than airplanes.  The most common causes are pilot error, mechanical failure, and improper maintenance, and all of which can lead to negligence claims.

According to one FAA official, the “pilot is responsible for determining whether it is safe to fly in current and expected conditions, and a pilot is also responsible for determining flight visibility.”  The weather that morning was terrible for flying a helicopter.  There was dense fog and limited visibility.  The weather was so bad that the LAPD grounded its helicopter fleet.  Kobe’s helicopter took off after requesting a special visual clearance used during poor weather and after traveling north, it was required to circle while awaiting further clearance to proceed.  At that point, air traffic control told the pilot he was “too low level for flight following at this time.”  The pilot responded that he was trying to fly higher to avoid a cloud layer.  Kobe’s helicopter then crashed into the mountainside.

Based upon the facts currently available, it looks like the pilot breached his duty to properly assess the weather conditions and to properly operate the helicopter.  Other than the pilot saying he was “trying” to fly higher, there have been no indications that the 1991 Sikorsky helicopter, in which Kobe was a passenger, was experiencing mechanical or electronic failure. In fact, this model has a very good safety rating.

For over 95 years, Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith has represented people injured, and the families of people killed, due to the negligence of others.  If you, or a loved one, have experienced a loss due to the negligence of another, please call us for a free consultation.

This blog is written by Firm Partner Steven Clarfield.

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