Company that flew Kobe Bryant’s helicopter receives federal help

THE operator of the helicopter that crashed, killing former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Kobe Bryant and eight others, received between $150,000 and $350,000 from taxpayers under a program to help small businesses hurt by the virus pandemic.

Island Express Helicopters Inc. of Long Beach, California, was approved for the funds to help preserve 20 jobs, according to government records. The Treasury Department on Monday identified companies that received at least $150,000 in help for small businesses.

The Treasury Department had previously disclosed that Island Express was expected to receive about $600,000 in virus relief set aside for passenger airlines. It was not clear whether there was any overlap in the amounts reported by the government.

A lawyer for Island Express declined to comment.

The money for both small businesses and airlines was contained in a $2.2 trillion measure that Congress and the Trump administration approved to help businesses withstand the pandemic.

Island Express operated the helicopter that crashed into a foggy hillside in Calabasas, California, on January 26. The helicopter was taking Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and six other passengers to Bryant’s youth sports academy in nearby Thousand Oaks, where Gianna was competing in a basketball tournament. All eight passengers and pilot Ara Zobayan were killed.

Bryant’s widow and relatives of other passengers are suing the company.

A crash investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to last several more months.

Under the paycheck protection program, Congress approved $659 billion in low-interest loans that will be forgiven if employers use the money on payroll, rent or similar expenses. The same bill set aside $25 billion in payroll help for airlines, including charter and tour operators.


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