Pilot ‘Distraught’ That Morrow Never Looked Up

Times Staff Writer

“Twilight Zone” helicopter pilot Dorcey Wingo testified Tuesday that he is distraught to this day that actor Vic Morrow did not try to evade the plummeting aircraft in the five seconds after it went out of control, striking and killing Morrow and two child actors.

“It extremely distresses me to the max that he never looked up,” Wingo said emotionally in the midst of a caustic round of cross-examination led by the prosecutor in the involuntary manslaughter trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea Purwin D’Agostino.

“Where did you expect Mr. Morrow to run?” asked an incredulous D’Agostino, noting that Morrow was carrying the two youngsters in his arms while standing almost knee-deep in water as the helicopter, which had been hovering at 24 feet, spun toward him.


Seconds to Act

“Away from the helicopter,” replied Wingo, 40, who said he had previously instructed Morrow to be prepared to take action if he ever heard the sound coming from the helicopter change considerably.

“He had over five seconds between the time that the sound of the helicopter changed and that impact,” Wingo said. “And I would hope to God that he could have used those five seconds to (escape).”

Outside the courtroom later, Wingo explained that he was not trying to cast any blame on Morrow for the 1982 film set tragedy, which occurred after the fireball from a special-effects explosion struck the helicopter’s tail rotor.

“I’m certainly not blaming Vic Morrow,” the veteran pilot said. “. . . It distressed me to the max that he did not look up at the helicopter as I’d asked him to do. And that is something that I’ll never forget.”

‘Place in My Heart’

Asked if Morrow could have evaded the lethal swath of the helicopter’s main rotor blade, which had a diameter of 44 feet, Wingo told reporters, “I hold a secret place in my heart that says he would have been able to do something.

“There’s nothing easy about living with this, nothing. (But) it’s one of the small, very small, comforts I have had” in dealing with it, he added.


D’Agostino said outside the courtroom that she found Wingo’s testimony “quite amazing.”

Saying it sounded like Wingo was blaming Morrow, the prosecutor declared: “How could he possibly have thought that Vic Morrow could have done anything to escape that helicopter under those circumstances and conditions? It’s a classic example of a defense. They’re blaming the parents, they’re blaming the fire safety officers, they’re blaming everyone. Now they’re blaming the dead man. It’s incredible.”

D’Agostino, during the cross-examination, which will continue today, asked Wingo if he blamed himself for the accident because he also had five seconds to take action after the aircraft’s tail rotor was destroyed. Wingo answered in the negative, noting that the helicopter was “out of control.”

Wingo, director John Landis and three associates are accused of criminal negligence in the deaths of Morrow and the children, Renee Chen, 6, and Myca Dinh Lee, 7, during the filming of a mock Vietnam battle scene. Morrow and Lee were decapitated by a rotor blade and Chen was crushed by the falling aircraft.