5 filming accidents that rocked, helped shape the industry
A look at five significant film and television set accidents:
“Twilight Zone: The Movie”: The 1982 helicopter crash that killed actor Vic Morrow and two children on the movie’s Santa Clarita, California, set shook the film industry and led to new safety standards for the use of choppers. Morrow and the children were killed while filming a scene after debris from explosions rose 100 feet in the air and damaged the copter’s rotor. Director John Landis and four others were acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges in a rare prosecution targeting a film production for on-set deaths. The families of the child actors killed settled civil lawsuits years later.
“Midnight Rider”: Assistant camera operator Sarah Jones was killed in February 2014 filming a Gregg Allman biopic in rural Georgia when she was hit by a train. The production did not have permission to be on the train tracks, and prosecutors filed criminal charges against director Randall Miller, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing charges. He was released after serving half of a two-year sentence, and his company is contesting a $74,900 fine by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Jones’ death sparked a heightened focus within the industry on film set safety, and her parents continue to wage a campaign to improve safety for set workers.
“The Crow”: Actor Brandon Lee died when he was shot in the abdomen while filming a scene in March 1993 in Wilmington, North Carolina. The film already had been plagued by money and safety issues — a construction worker was badly burned a month earlier. Lee, the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was killed after a worker created a makeshift bullet that was mistakenly left in a gun used to film the scene. OSHA fined the production $84,000 for violations found after Lee’s death, but the penalty later was reduced to $55,000. Lee’s death led to changes in how firearms are treated on sets.
“Cops”: An audio technician for the long-running TV reality series was killed in Omaha, Nebraska, while filming an attempted armed robbery at a fast-food restaurant in August 2014. Boston native Bryce Dion’s death prompted OSHA to recommend additional training and safety instruction for the show’s crew members, including teaching workers how to film shootings from farther away and removing incentives that encouraged employees to take risks to capture more action-packed stories. Dion was the first person killed in the history of “Cops,” which premiered in 1989 and follows on-duty police officers in various agencies in the United States.
“Untitled Military Project”: An early-morning helicopter crash in a remote area north of Los Angeles in February 2013 killed three people filming a planned reality TV series for the Discovery Channel. The shoot occurred on a moonless night and the pilot wasn’t wearing night vision goggles at the time of the crash; federal investigators also determined that a light used to illuminate an actor’s face in the cockpit hampered the pilot’s ability to fly. The National Transportation Safety Board faulted the pilot, who was among those killed in the worst domestic filming accident since the “Twilight Zone” crash, for flying in unsafe conditions.