Plane crash on Tom Cruise movie set kills two crew members

A film starring Tom Cruise was struck with tragedy Friday when a small plane crashed in Colombia, killing two crew members.

"An aircraft carrying crew members crashed while returning to Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin following [the] production wrap on the film 'Mena,' resulting in two fatalities," said a spokesman for Universal Pictures. "On behalf of the production, our hearts and prayers go out to the crew members and their families at this difficult time."  

Noted Hollywood stunt pilot Alan D. Purwin and Colombian Carlos Brel were killed and pilot Jimmy Lee Garlam was injured, according to Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority via CNN. The plane had encountered bad weather Friday afternoon. Cruise, who is a trained pilot, was not in the plane, said a person familiar with the accident who was not authorized to discuss the matter.

“Alan was known for his passion, generosity, and ability to make us all feel as though we were a part of something much bigger than ourselves,” said Chief Executive Steve Gardera of Shotover Camera Systems, a company that develops high-performance aerial cameras. Purwin was founder and owner of the company.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our heroic founder.… Alan was both a pioneer in the film industry and committed philanthropist. His legacy includes many feats, such as conducting the first vital organ transplant mission in Los Angeles, supporting the first response rescue efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and being the only American Hollywood movie pilot to fly throughout the People’s Republic of China.”

The plane was being used to transport crew for the movie "Mena" directed by Doug Liman. The film is about a TWA pilot who worked for the cocaine drug lord Pablo Escobar.

The accident is the latest in a series of deadly tragedies that have occurred on film sets.

A helicopter crash on the set of a French reality TV show in Argentina earlier this year claimed 10 lives.  Another helicopter crash in Acton for a Discovery Channel TV show killed three people in 2013. It was the worst film set accident since the 1982 "Twilight Zone: The Movie" copter crash near Santa Clarita that killed actor Vic Morrow and two children.

Last year, 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed and seven others were injured when a freight train hit the crew filming "Midnight Rider," a movie about the life of rocker Gregg Allman. In a case that became a rallying cry for film set safety, the film's director, Randall Miller, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was given a two-year prison sentence, the first of its kind in Hollywood history.

Los Angeles Times report in March found a sharp rise in catastrophic injuries on film sets in recent years.  There were 20 deaths in the U.S. related to motion picture and television production for the five years that ended in December 2014, double the number of fatalities during the previous five-year period. 

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Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

3:17 p.m.: Updated with new information throughout.

This story was originally posted at 9:10 p.m. Friday.

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