A stunt coordinator aboard the helicopter that crashed, killing actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, during the filming of a “Twilight Zone” movie sequence testified last week that he personally warned director John Landis after an earlier filming sequence that the scene should be scaled down.
“I said something to John that it was awful big and a lot of heat, and I explained that it should be cut down somewhat” Gary McLarty said. “He said that it would be.”
Previous witnesses, however, have testified that the special effects explosions that led to the 1982 helicopter accident were even larger in the final, fatal scene than in the previous shots that night.
In other testimony during the trial’s 10th week, a special effects employee told the court that he had never attended any meetings or been given diagrams concerning the manner in which the massive final scene would be shot. The employee, Kevin Quibell, was responsible for firing special effects that would simulate bullets in the vicinity of Morrow and the children, Renee Chen, 6, and Myca Dinh Lee, 7.
Hired as Double
Landis and four associates are on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of the three actors. McLarty, who had been hired as a stunt double for Morrow, was the first of six people on the helicopter to testify thus far in the trial. Two co-defendants, pilot Dorcey A. Wingo and unit production manager Dan Allingham, were among the people on the aircraft.
McLarty told jurors that while filming a shot three hours before the fatal accident, Wingo “made a loud yell” after being singed by heat from special effects explosions shot off from the ground. Afterward, McLarty privately discussed his concerns with Landis.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea Purwin D’Agostino termed McLarty’s testimony “devastating.” But Wingo’s lawyer, Eugene L. Trope, downplayed its significance, saying the explosions that crippled the helicopter were ignited by mistake before the aircraft was a safe distance away from the mortars.
Both Quibell and another witness, still photographer Morgan Renard, also testified about the use of live ammunition during the filming of a sequence involving Morrow two days before the fatal accident.
Renard said the ammunition was fired from shotguns into banana plants after Landis announced that he was unhappy with the results of special effects simulations. Landis was informed, Renard said, that it would take 15 minutes to make adjustments to the special effects but he decided that it would take too long, so the shotguns were used instead. Renard said Morrow was situated about 20 feet from the ammunition but that it was fired away from him.