Trial Begins in Stunt Woman's Suit Over 'Airwolf' Accident

Nicole Yorkin's last story for this magazine was "Taking Back the Parks."

On this, both sides in stunt woman Desiree Kerns' lawsuit agree: Kerns wasn't supposed to be burned as she leaped from a pickup truck rigged with an explosive device in a 1985 stunt for the television series "Airwolf."

But something went wrong. When the device detonated, Kerns was badly burned. At issue in Kerns' lawsuit in San Fernando Superior Court against four television production officials is the question of who was to blame.

Kerns, 33, of Van Nuys, alleges that the four were responsible for her injuries by allowing her to go into the stunt thinking that the device would produce only smoke and no flames.

Selection of a jury began Monday.

Defense attorney Thomas A. Foster said he will argue that the stunt was fully explained to Kerns, but she panicked and jumped before the fireball had cleared.

The accident occurred Feb. 25, 1985, during the filming of "Airwolf" at Indian Dunes Park near Valencia. In addition to executive producer Donald P. Bellisario and his company, Belisarius Productions, Kerns is suing stunt coordinator Ron Stein, director Virgil Vogel and special effects coordinator Conrad Krumm.

Kerns and stunt man Chad Randall, standing in for two actors, were in the pickup, which was rigged with an explosive device that Kerns could trigger by pressing a button.

Kerns' attorney, Gerald L. Kroll, said in an interview that Kerns was told by Stein that the button would set off smoke. Kroll said the fireball surprised Kerns, who wore no protective clothing. Kerns, who suffered second- and third-degree burns on her face, scalp, neck and one arm, could have been more seriously hurt or killed had she not jumped when she did, he said.

Foster, representing all of the defendants, said Kerns was warned that the explosive device would set off "a momentary flash of flame." He said she was told not to jump until it cleared, but she pressed the button too soon.

"Even though it was fully explained, and it was rehearsed several times, when it came down to actually doing the scene . . . she basically jumped the gun," Foster said.

Randall, who sustained minor burns, is expected to testify for the defense.

Kroll said he will argue that the defendants and defense witnesses are blaming Kerns to save their careers. Kerns, he said, is being blackballed by the entertainment industry as a result of the accident.

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