Three people died on Sunday in a pre-dawn helicopter crash at a remote area of northern Los Angeles County while filming a reality show for Discovery Channel. The incident has re-ignited debate about safety issues during production of reality TV shows.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Fire Dispatcher Robert Diaz said three people died in a helicopter crash at about 3:40 a.m. on Sunday at the Polsa Rosa Ranch, a popular filming location in a remote area near the Soledad Canyon road in Acton. All three people on the spot, Diaz said. Authorities did not release their names immediately.
The Daily Mail reports that Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer, said a Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter was involved in the incident. The helicopter crashed to the ground "under unknown circumstances." The Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said they are investigating the incident.
The accident occurred during production of a reality TV show listed on the permit as an "Untitled Military Project" for Discovery Channel. AP reports that Philip Soloski, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Film Commission, said a permit had been granted to the crew to film a helicopter at the ranch from 5 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday.
Soloski said: "It's a grievous accident and our hearts go out to the people affected by it."
Records also indicated that the Federal Aviation Administration had approved the helicopter used in the filming. Soloski said: "We wouldn't have referenced helicopter activity if we didn't already have pre-approval from the FAA."
The Los Angeles Times explains that the Polsa Rosa Ranch at which the accident occurred is a popular filming location for both movies and TV shows. According to the AP, the movies Windtalkers (2002) and last year’s remake of Red Dawn were shot at the ranch.
According to the AP, the ranch was also the site of a previous accident in September when a 48-year-old crew member died on the set of Johnny Depp's The Lone Ranger from what was believed to be a heart attack while preparing a tank for an underwater shooting scene in scuba gear.
Eyeworks USA, formerly 3 Ball Production, the company that produced Biggest Loser (2004-) series was producing the film. In a statement, Eyeworks USA said: "We can confirm that a helicopter crash occurred this morning while shooting a new series for a cable network, which resulted tragically in three fatalities. We are cooperating fully with the authorities. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those involved."
Discovery Channel also said in a statement: "A production company was shooting a show for Discovery Channel when this tragic accident occurred. We are all cooperating fully with authorities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families."
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer, said the circumstances of the crash were being investigated. The Daily Mail reports television footage showed the wreckage in a remote canyon area near Soledad Canyon Road.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the accident is the worst in California since Vic Morrow and two child actors died in Santa Clarita after a helicopter crash during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1982. AP reports that the wreckage of the latest accident near Soledad Canyon Road was only 25 miles from the spot where Vic Morrow and the two children died.
Vic Morrow's death shocked many, especially fans of his 1960s TV series Combat, and led to questions about safety standard and stricter safety regulations for film crews. The Los Angeles Times reports the latest incident will bring the reality TV sector under closer scrutiny.
Reality TV show producers have been accused of "cutting corners on safety, exposing cast and crew to hazardous working conditions" due to "a combination of tight budgets, lack of trained safety personnel and pressure to capture dramatic footage," the Los Angeles Times reports.