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Kobe Bryant's widow Vanessa urges Congress to pass helicopter safety bill

Thomas Barrabi

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, called Thursday for Congress to pass federal legislation on helicopter safety after the deaths of her husband and daughter, Gianna, in a crash earlier this year.

Democratic lawmakers introduced the "Kobe and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act" on Thursday. The bill calls for stricter safety standards for helicopters carrying groups of six or more people, including mandatory installation of a Terrain Awareness and Warning System on board. Bryant has expressed support for the legislation.

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"I strongly urge that the United States Congress pass a federal law that would improve the safety of helicopters operating in this country,” Bryant said in a statement obtained by TMZ. "I believe there is a chance that Kobe and Gianna would still be alive today if their helicopter had been equipped with the safety equipment required by this pending federal legislation.”

Kobe and Gianna Bryant were among nine passengers who died on Jan. 26 in Calabasas, California, when their helicopter crashed in foggy conditions. The group was en route to a youth basketball game.

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Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters Inc. and the estate of pilot Ara Zobayan in February. The lawsuit accuses the defendants of negligence, including a failure to check weather conditions prior to the flight.

In a court filing earlier this month, attorneys for Vanessa Bryant said, “Kobe Bryant's future lost earnings equal hundreds of millions of dollars.” She is seeking unspecified damages related to her husband’s death.

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Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, announced his intention to propose the "Kobe and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act" in January. At the time, Sherman noted that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require a helicopter to have a terrain awareness and warning system. However, it was never mandated.

Kobe Bryant’s substantial ownership stake in Bodyarmor, worth $200 million as of 2018, passed to Vanessa Bryant and his surviving children.

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