Copter Being Used for Chuck Norris Movie Crashes in Philippines; 4 Die

Times Staff Writer

A Philippine Air Force helicopter hired for the filming of a Chuck Norris movie about Vietnam plunged into Manila Bay on Saturday, killing four Filipino soldiers and injuring five other people.

The only production crew member injured, identified by authorities as West German Max Motschmann, had been hired by Cannon Film Group, producers of the film, to assist in filming a scene for “Missing in Action III” in Puerto Azul, a resort southwest of Manila.

But Mike Hartman, the film’s associate producer, said Saturday from Manila that Motschmann had not been authorized by Cannon to ride in the helicopter, which crashed early Saturday (3:30 p.m. Friday Los Angeles time).


Not Hired to Ride in Copter

“We hired him for a few days, but not to ride in the helicopter,” Hartman said. “He wasn’t supposed to be on the helicopter. He rode on the helicopter because of his previous knowledge of people from the air force.”

The helicopter crash occurred shortly after a Los Angeles Superior Court jury was finding film director John Landis and four associates not guilty in the “Twilight Zone” trial.

Richard Brooks, who is not affiliated with either film but is a member of the Directors Guild safety committee, which will be holding hearings on the “Twilight Zone” helicopter crash, called the accident an “unfortunate coincidence.”

Brooks said the committee will look into the Philippine crash when it meets Monday to discuss the “Twilight Zone” case, which stemmed from a helicopter crash in 1982 that killed actor Vic Morrow and two children during filming on the set.

“Many people who followed the ‘Twilight Zone’ case are going to be saying, ‘Well, you see, there you go again,’ ” Brooks said.

Stunt man Bill Lane, who investigated the “Twilight Zone” crash for the Screen Actors Guild, called the Philippine accident shocking but said helicopter crashes are inevitable considering the increasing popularity of the aircraft in film production.


‘A Crash Is a Crash’

“It could have happened the same day as the ‘Twilight Zone’ or any other day, and it wouldn’t have made a difference,” Lane said. “A crash is a crash.”

Officials at Makati Medical Center in Manila, where Motschmann and four other injured passengers--two Filipino pilots and two police constables--were taken, would not release information about the injured.

Authorities said the Sikorsky S-26 aircraft had taken off from Villamor Air Base near Manila International Airport and was en route to Puerto Azul when it plunged into the bay near the village of Naic. A military official reportedly told a radio reporter that the aircraft developed engine trouble, but the Air Force said Saturday that it did not know what caused the crash.

Hartman said Cannon had hired the helicopter for $1,000 an hour to carry production crews filming aerial shots in Puerto Azul. Hartman described the accident as “very upsetting” to Norris and others working on the film, but he said filming has continued on schedule.

Norris could not be reached for comment, and a Cannon spokeswoman in Los Angeles said the company would not comment on the crash.

“People are very upset, but there is nothing you can do about it,” Hartman said. “Decisions for shooting the film are left to the Ministry of Defense and the Air Force. They are responsible for the safety of the helicopter.”

Hartman noted that the Philippines has become popular among film makers shooting movies about Vietnam because its geography is similar to that of Vietnam, production costs are relatively cheap and the Philippine military is willing to provide tanks, helicopters and other equipment needed for the films.