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Fatal “Airwolf” Crash Won’t Halt Show’s Production

January 19, 1985 GMT

NEWHALL, Calif. (AP) _ A helicopter crash during filming of CBS-TV’s ″Airwolf″ killed actor Jan- Michael Vincent’s stunt double and injured the pilot, 10 miles south of where a ″Twilight Zone″ movie chopper mishap claimed the lives of actor Vic Morrow and two children in 1982.

Film crew members managed to rescue the pilot but Vincent’s double - second-generation stuntman Reid Rondell - was still in the mangled craft when it burst into flames Friday.

Pilot Scott Meher, 46, of Los Angeles, flown by air ambulance to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, was in fair condition with a concussion and abrasions, nursing supervisor Rose Morelli said.


″Members of the crew rushed over and pulled out the pilot, then the helicopter burst into flames. The stuntman was still inside,″ said Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Jeff Myers.

Friday morning’s crash occurred near a building at the Sun Oil Refinery in rugged Pico Canyon, 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Its cause was under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board. Ben Halprin, vice president of Universal Television, said it wouldn’t halt production of ″Airwolf.″

The site had been rented to Universal Studios and Belisarius Productions Inc., co-producers of the action drama that stars Vincent and Ernest Borgnine as private pilots who also work for a secret government agency. They use a high-tech, jet-powered, gun-and rocket-equipped helicopter called ″Airwolf″ - in real life a modified Bell 222.

Neither actor was on the set when Meher’s helicopter, one of two participating in a dogfight-and-chase scene, crashed into a grassy knoll.

The crash occurred as the Bell 205 helicopter in which Rondell was a passenger made its third pass through a canyon, swooping down to within 200 feet of the ground.

It was the first accident in the show’s two-season history, said Ray Holt, a still photographer employed by the series.

Stuntman David Ellis said Rondell, who acted as Vincent’s stunt double, was ″one of the most talented kids in the business.″

Rondell’s father was stunt coordinator for dozens of movies and TV shows and his brother holds a similar job for the TV show ″T.J. Hooker.″

Created by Don Bellisario, who also created ″Magnum, P.I.,″ ″Airwolf″ placed 44th in last week’s Nielsen ratings.

Friday’s crash was the entertainment industry’s first helicopter fatality since Morrow and two child actors were killed when a chopper crashed on them during filming of the ″Twilight Zone″ movie in July 1982.

After the accident, the movie and television industry re-examined procedures it used to ensure helicopter safety during filming.

The Labor Management Safety Committee for the Motion Picture Television Industry established 16 rules, including requiring pilots and ground crews to plan in advance all landing areas and intended flight paths.

They also give the pilot final authority over all maneuvers.