Tom Cruise movie crew plane crashes in Colombia

A plane used by Hollywood actor Tom Cruise during the shooting of his movie Mena crashed in Colombia. Two people died when a plane carrying crew members from a film starring Tom Cruise crashed in Colombia, aviation authorities and Universal Pictures said.

The crew had just wrapped up production on the upcoming Doug Liman film “Mena” when it went down Friday while returning to Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin.

“On behalf of the production, our hearts and prayers go out to the crew members and their families at this difficult time,” Universal Pictures said in a statement.

The plane went down near the town of San Pedro de los Milagros in a mountainous area of Colombia’s department of Antioquia.

The twin-engine aircraft crashed Friday around 5:30 pm (2230 GMT), said Uriel Bedoya of the national civil aviation authority Aerocivil.

Cruise arrived in Colombia on August 20 to record scenes for the film based on the life of American pilot Barry Seal, who worked for Pablo Escobar, the drug kingpin who was killed in Medellin in 1993.

The two deceased passengers, both Americans, were identified as Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl.

The plane’s pilot, Jimmy Lee Garland, was injured in the crash and is being treated at a Medellin hospital, where aviation officials said his condition was stable.

Garland suffered a hip fracture and other injuries, and underwent surgery Saturday.

Gilberto Mazo, a local civil defense official, told AFP that Garland was conscious when rescuers reached him.

“There was nothing we could do for (the other two,” said Jose Ramirez, an area resident who rushed to the crash site. But Garland, who was trapped inside the crashed plane, “was saying ‘get me out of here.’”

“We took him out on a blanket until the ambulance came for him,” Ramirez said.

Praise for Purwin
Purwin was a founder of Helinet, the company which owned the plane involved in the crash. It provides aviation services for the movie industry, as well as news and medical companies.

Steve Gatena, chief executive of the California-based firm, paid tribute to Purwin as “a great man, a world-renowned aviator, and a brilliant entrepreneur.”

He said Purwin also enjoyed the distinction of having been the only Hollywood movie pilot to have flown throughout China.

“There are no words that can express our heartache for we have lost one of the world’s greatest helicopter pilots and one of aviation’s greatest leaders,” Gatena said.

Officials said that, at the time of the crash, flying conditions were generally good and there was still daylight.

Authorities are investigating, however, whether sudden wind gusts played a role in the accident.

The crash was the latest in a series of deadly incidents involving film crews.

In March, eight French nationals and two Argentine pilots died in a helicopter crash while filming a television reality show.

Three people were killed during the 2013 crash of a helicopter while filming a reality TV series for the Discovery Channel. –AFP

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