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Vanessa Bryant files second lawsuit against helicopter firm


Vanessa Bryant is suing a second helicopter company stemming from the crash in Calabasas in January that killed Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and eight others. The lawsuit alleges the Santa Ana-based firm’s owner and founder suggested the route for the ill-fated flight and should have aborted it.

The amended Los Angeles Superior Court suit filed Sept. 18 additionally names OC Helicopters LLC, which allegedly provided the flight operations for the chopper owned by Island Express Helicopters Inc. and piloted by Ara George Zobayan.

According to the amended suit, OC Helicopters owner and founder Richard Webb “suggested the route for this subject fatal flight to Zobayan.’’

OC Helicopters “improperly failed to tell the Island Express pilot Ara George Zobayan to abort or cancel the flight or turn around when its agent and employee, Richard Webb, was in communications with defendant Zobayan and monitoring the weather during the  flight,’’ the suit states.

Webb personally checked and monitored weather conditions every hour and told Zobayan that based on the weather reports, the flight “was doable and was a good flight plan,’’ the suit alleges.

Webb continued to review weather updates and communicate with Zobayan and sent Zobayan a final weather-related text 20 minutes after the crash, according to the amended complaint.

Webb regularly discussed weather and routes with Island Express pilots prior to and during flights, according to the amended complaint.

Zobayan’s estate and Island Express Helicopters were originally named as defendants when the suit was filed Feb. 24.

Attorneys for the 38-year-old Vanessa Bryant filed additional court papers Friday seeking dismissal of Island Express’ cross-complaint against air-traffic controllers the company blames for the crash, calling the legal effort a “transparent and untenable attempt to forum-shop their way into federal court’’ and deprive their client of her preference that the case be tried in state court.

The helicopter, a 1991 Sikorsky S76B piloted by Zobayan, crashed amid heavy fog on Jan. 26 on a Calabasas hillside, killing Zobayan and his eight passengers, including the 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.