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California Helicopter Accident Kills Three, Raises Questions

Helicopters have become a popular form of transportation on reality TV shows, which has fed into the public’s increased interest in helicopter rides. Now, a California helicopter accident that killed three people involved in the production of Discovery Channel’s “Untitled Military Project” has raised the question about the safety of helicopter rides and reality show filming.

Sunday’s helicopter crash happened in Acton, California, at the Polsa Rosa Ranch, a popular filming spot. Despite all of the dangerous stunts performed on some film sets — such as car accident stunts, this crash is the worst California film set accident in 20 years. The last was also a helicopter crash — actor Vic Morrow and two children actors died when their helicopter crashed during the filming of “Twilight Zone: The Movie.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the producers of the reality show — Eyeworks USA — had clearance to film the helicopter landing and takeoff. The FAA is investigating the accident to determine causation. If the cause was in part due to the filming environment, we may see more production restrictions put on crews, similar to what occurred after the “Twilight Zone” crash. After that accident, the show’s producer also faced involuntary manslaughter charges and wrongful death / personal injury lawsuits from the victims’ families.

Helicopter crashes are rare but often deadly. Now, three families are left picking up the pieces and wondering “what next?” Once the investigation is complete, they will know if a mechanical failure, driver error and/or production conditions contributed to the helicopter accident. Then, they will be able to hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligent actions.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Helicopter crash puts spotlight on safety of reality TV shows,” Richard Verrier, Feb. 10, 2013