Advertisement

Boom’s Counterweight Cited as Possible Cause of Fatal Accident

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Problems with a camera boom counterweight may have been responsible for an accident that killed one crew member and injured another this week during filming of a Disney movie in rural San Bernardino County, state authorities said Friday.

But just what threw the boom off balance and whether the crew was properly trained in the equipment’s use remained under investigation.

Matthew Gordy, 31, of Thousand Oaks was electrocuted, and 33-year-old David Riggio of Encino was badly burned Wednesday when the camera boom they were handling shot 40 feet into the air, striking a major cross-country power line carrying 115,000 volts of electricity, said Cal/OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer.

Under state safety regulations, workers and equipment are not supposed to come within 10 feet of a power line. Fryer said the power line was about 49 feet above where the Disney crew was filming early-morning, live-action sequences for the film “Dinosaur.”

Advertisement

Preliminary reports show that crew members arrived at the site around 7:15 a.m. Wednesday and had begun setting up a metal camera boom mounted on a flatbed trailer when something caused the boom to rise. One worker was on the truck, adjusting turn screws, and two others were on the ground adjusting weights and counterweights. Fryer declined to discuss the exact positions of Gordy and Riggio.

Officials said the circumstances leading to the accident are the focus of their investigation.

“Something made the boom rise,” Fryer said. “Was it too much weight? Or was there some other malfunction with the equipment? Training is another issue.”

The injured men were rushed to Ridgecrest Community Hospital, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Gordy died shortly after arrival; Riggio was transferred to the Grossman Burn Center at Sherman Oaks Hospital.

Advertisement

Riggio, who suffered burns and injuries to his feet, hands and chest, was scheduled to be operated on early this morning, said Dr. Peter H. Grossman, a surgeon at the center named for his father. The current entered his hands, traveled through his body and exited through his feet.

“Given his relative physical condition and his age, we will quote him as being in fair condition,” said hospital spokesman Larry Weinberg.

“However, it is necessary to note that the burns themselves are serious and at least a portion of one of his extremities, his right foot, is in danger of being amputated.”

In Thousand Oaks on Friday, Gordy’s widow mourned her husband and complained that no Disney officials had called to offer condolences.

“I have not heard from any emissary of the Walt Disney Co. to this day,” Krista Gordy said, fighting tears.

“What I really want to say--and why I’m even talking to the media--is that Matt worked in the entertainment business for 12 years. He gave blood and sweat and a lot of life to that business. He finally paid his life to that business. I want his death to be acknowledged in the industry because that was where he worked,” she said.

According to a Disney spokesperson, Disney officials extended sympathies to Krista Gordy and contacted her the morning of the accident, flew her to the site and remained with her the entire day.

“Necessary investigations have to be conducted, the primary one being with Cal/OSHA,” said Disney spokeswoman Terry Curtin. “The results are not in and, when they are received, all parties involved will be immediately notified.”

Advertisement

“I understand this is a very trying time for Mrs. Gordy, and she will receive additional information the minute it’s available.”

Krista Gordy, 28, said she learned of her husband’s death from a doctor at Ridgecrest around 10 a.m. Wednesday, about two hours after the accident.

“The production company called me and said, ‘We need to give you the number of someone at a hospital. They need some information from you. There’s been an accident on the set and Matt’s at the hospital.’ ”

The mother of a 13-month-old, with another child due in October, Gordy said she knew little about her husband’s working conditions, and she would not speculate about whether his death could have been prevented.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to get electrocuted making movies,” added her father, Bill Nordstrom. “Do you?”

Times staff writers Kate Folmar and Karima Haynes contributed to this story.


Advertisement