Third in a series.
Related: The Death Of Sarah Jones: Safety Concerns Raised Over ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew’s Previous Film In Georgia
Stunt drivers have helmets, roll bars, air bags and five-point safety harnesses to help keep them safe. All that a cameraman has between him and an oncoming speeding stunt car is his camera. It’s why so many cameramen and their assistants have gotten killed on film and TV productions: they’re right on top of the action — and sometimes killed beneath it. The loss of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones on the set of Midnight Rider is yet another tragic death. Her passing has shined a light on set safety. It is particularly dangerous for cameramen and their assistants. In the last 10 years, more than four times as many camera department personnel have been killed making movies and TV shows than stunt performers. By comparison, two stuntmen – Kun Liu on The Expendables 2 and Lu Yanqing on John Woo’s Red Cliff – have been killed in the last 10 years, and none in America. (Also critically injured on The Expendables 2 was Nuo Sun.) Lu was only 23 years old. The following year, Kun’s family filed a wrongful death suit against Nu Image and Millennium Films, and stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski.
Here is a list of some of those cameramen and stuntmen who have perished while working in the industry:
February 24, 2013
Canadian cameraman John Driftmier and his pilot were killed when their small plane crashed on a location shoot in Kenya for the Discovery Canada channel’s Dangerous Flights, a series that documents the hazardous work of ferry pilots who deliver small, private planes to customers around the world. He was the second Canadian cameraman to die in two years while filming reality TV shows. Driftmier’s brother, journalist Peter Driftmier, maintains that a pervasive “culture of fear” in the Canadian reality TV industry is putting lives at risk. “The fact of the matter is that the hardworking people who create Canada’s factual TV productions are not being supported to make their workdays as safe as possible,” he said. “In fact, there is a widespread culture of fear in the industry that is steering people away from speaking up to improve safety on the job.” His brother’s death, he says, “has helped prompt many in the industry to become more conscious of their own safety, and to speak out.”
Related: Safety On Set: Three Workers Speak Out
February 10, 2013
Cameraman Darren Rydstrom, 46, and two others were killed in northern Los Angeles County when their helicopter crashed while filming of an untitled military-themed reality show for the Discovery Channel. Friends and family members recall that even as a kid, Rydstrom always had a camera in his hands. “He was the biggest pain in the neck because he had his eye in a lens all the time,” his mother, Jeri Rydstrom, told a reporter at his hometown paper, the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal. One of his last phone calls, made just a few hours before his death, was to wish her a happy birthday. He told her that her birthday gift was a private golf lesson, and that he’d see her soon and take her golfing. “And then the sheriff was at my door,” she said.
Related: Discovery Reality Show Chopper Crash Due To “Cost-Cutting Measures”, Lawsuit Claims
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