In a spectacular stunt, Dar Allen Robinson crashed his motorcycle into a guardrail at 40 m.p.h. and vaulted into a safety net. Then, he did it again to perfect the movie scene being shot in the Arizona desert.
But several hours later Friday afternoon, Robinson was killed in what his colleagues said was a routine motorcycle chase scene. Considered one of the most talented, gutsiest and safest stunt men in the world, he died after he plunged off a 40-foot embankment, hit a rock ledge and was gored by a sagebrush limb.
The 39-year-old Los Angeles resident, who held a score of world stunt records and appeared in such movies as Burt Reynold's "Stick" and "Sharky's Machine," suffered massive internal injuries and died en route to a hospital, authorities said.
The accident occurred in the steep vermilion cliffs area of U.S. 85A, about 65 miles north of Page, during filming of "Million Dollar Mystery," a Productions Limited film to be released by the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.
Robinson and two other cyclists who were portraying gangsters in pursuit of the film's heroes sped past a camera and down a steep hill at approximately 75 m.p.h., according to Sgt. Allan Schmidt of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. As they approached a sharp curve, they slowed down to about 50 m.p.h., but Robinson, who was on the outside edge of the two-lane highway, slipped off the road and lost control of the Honda 600 dirt bike in the sand.
Separated from the large bike, Robinson catapulted down an embankment, hit a ledge and was speared by a branch. He was rushed to the film crew's base camp a mile away where he was treated by a nurse. He was transported by car to a spot 12 miles south of the accident and was picked up by a Highway Patrol helicopter.
"We have a saying," said George Fisher, stunt coordinator for the movie. "It's always the easy ones that get you."
Fisher, a long-time associate of Robinson and a former board member of the Stuntmen's Assn. of Motion Pictures, said the stunt man had never broken a bone or been seriously injured.
Robinson was wearing "the best" of safety gear at the time of the accident, including helmet, boots, gloves, shoulder and kneepads, Fisher added.
"Dar was by no means a daredevil. He did things nobody else could do, and his stunts were spectacular visually," he said. "But they were always well planned and well thought out. He approached his work scientifically. He would astound people with his mathematical calculations and accuracy in pinpointing landings."
Work on the adventure-comedy began earlier in the week and was to continue through February in several Arizona areas, including Lake Havasu City and Bisbee. Richard Fleischer is directing the film, but the starring roles have not been cast. Filming is expected to resume Monday.
Robinson held several world records, including a high fall into an air bag (311 feet), a high fall while on fire (190 feet) and the longest car jump from ramp to surface (179 feet).
In addition, he held several "World's First" records. He was the first stunt man to complete a sky dive transfer from one airplane to another and was the first to sky dive out of a cargo plane while seated in a small sports car, according to a spokesman for De Laurentiis.
Robinson, who appeared in many movies, including "Turk 182!" with Timothy Hutton, also performed stunts on the television show "That's Incredible." His latest movies were "Lethal Weapon" and "Cyclone," and he recently made two specials for Japanese television
Highest Paid Stunt Man
Robinson is listed in the 1986 Guinness Book of World Records as the highest paid stunt man for being paid $100,000 for a jump from the 1,100-foot-high CN Tower in Toronto in November, 1979, while filming the movie "High Point." He opened a parachute 300 feet from the ground.
In 1980, he jumped 900 feet from the tower, which is the world's tallest free-standing structure. In that jump he was attached to a wire cable that broke his fall 200 feet from the ground. He also performed a free fall from the top of the Houston Astrodome.
In September, 1978, he jumped 286 feet from a helicopter in Buena Park to eclipse a world's record of 280 feet held by fellow stunt man A. J. Bakunas. Bakunas died later that month in Kentucky trying to regain the world free-fall record from Robinson. The air bag designed to cushion Bakunas' landing burst when he smashed into it.
Robinson is survived by his wife, Linda, and five children.
The film crew will hold a memorial service for Robinson today in Page, Fisher said. Funeral services are pending.
"He was one of the most giving and helpful persons you could hope to meet. And you could always find a smile on his face," Fisher said.