The charter company that operated the helicopter that crashed in January, killing Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others, received more than $ 600,000 under a federal program to support the payroll of the aviation industry amid the coronavirus crisis.
Long Beach-based Island Express Helicopters obtained payment on May 1 through the CARES Act, according to Treasury Department records.
The company is one of 202 passenger air carriers of all sizes that have received wage bill support through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in amounts ranging from 5 $ 900 to $ 5.8 billion.
Twenty-four of the companies, including Island Express, are based in California. The largest distribution in the state – $ 26.9 million – went to Clay Lacy Aviation in Van Nuys. Thirteen of the companies received assistance of at least $ 1 million.
A spokesperson for Island Express declined to comment.
The company faces four wrongful death lawsuits in Los Angeles County Superior Court over the crash.
The 1991 Sikorsky S-76B carrying Bryant crashed into a hill in Calabasas, near Los Virgenes Road and Willow Glen Street, in heavy fog on January 26. The helicopter was on its way to a youth basketball game at Bryant’s Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.
In addition to Kobe and Gianna Bryant, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; Payton and Sarah Chester; Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan were also killed.
Vanessa Bryant continued in February on the same day as the public memorial service at Staples Center for her husband and daughter.
“The defendant Island Express Helicopters authorized, directed and / or authorized a flight with full knowledge that the helicopter in question was flying in dangerous weather conditions,” said the lawsuit.
In a response to the complaint filed last week, lawyers for Island Express argued that passengers knew about the “special dangers” of helicopter travel and voluntarily assumed them. The file described the accident as an “inevitable accident”.
One of Bryant’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment on the CARES Act funds.
The surviving members of the Altobelli, Chester and Mauser families also sued the company.
Island Express suspended operations indefinitely after the accident. Its website, updated in early March, again offers charter services.
“Your time is precious, with the heaviest traffic jams in California, we can turn a two-hour cab ride from LAX into a 12-minute flight,” the site said.
The company’s latest Instagram post said in mid-April that it continues to offer daily flights to and from Catalina Island for “essential travel” and “we can’t wait for the things are getting back to normal “.