Injured Stunt Woman Sues Warner Bros. : Buried by 10 Tons of Sand in Accident on TV Film Set, She Says

Times Staff Writer

A television stunt woman has sued Warner Brothers Television for at least $10 million, claiming that she was buried under more than 10 tons of wet sand when a scene in which she was to appear to be buried alive went awry.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, stunt woman Carol Daniels alleged that the barrier that was to have protected her during filming for "Shadow Chasers," an ABC television series, had already failed once during an earlier rehearsal. But directors, unhappy with the earlier effect, asked her to try the stunt again with an even heavier load of sand.

"They didn't even know where I was. They were walking on me," said Daniels, 50, who has not worked since the November, 1985, accident.

The suit is one of several filed in recent months challenging special effects practices on Hollywood film sets.

"There's finally been some concern that people in front of the camera have some rights, too," said Daniels' attorney, Edward Lewis.

Daniels said the scene was supposed to simulate an accident during an archeological dig, calling for her to stand in an open pit, protected by a barrier of wooden two-by-fours. A skip loader was to pour a "minimum" amount of dirt into the pit in front of her, creating the effect that she was being buried alive.

But the barrier failed to hold back the dirt during an initial rehearsal of the scene and filming was scrapped for the day. An additional problem was that the film and special effects directors "were not satisfied with the volume, speed and velocity of dirt falling into the pit," the suit alleges.

The barrier was rebuilt the next day, and Daniels was assured that, this time, it would hold. The skip loader was replaced with a dump truck holding more than 10 cubic yards of wet sand--estimated at the time to weigh 10 to 15 tons, Daniels said.

With cameras rolling, the dump truck poured its entire contents in front of the barrier where she was standing. But the barrier again collapsed, sending the entire load of sand thundering down on her, she said.

"It threw me to the side of the trench, then proceeded to cover me," she said. "I was real concerned about my head, because I heard it crunch. But I had raised my hands in front of me, and that left a little air pocket which was what enabled me to still be able to talk about it, I guess."

It took five minutes for workers on the set to shovel her out from under an estimated three feet of sand, she said.

The Marina del Rey resident suffered nerve damage, spinal injuries and a severe concussion and spinal injuries that left her head swollen to "the size of a watermelon," for which she is seeking at least $10 million in damages.

A spokesman for Warner Brothers said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it. The suit also names ABC and various members of the film crew as defendants.

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