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Stunt Man Misses Center of Air Bag, Dies in Leap From 7th Floor of L.A. Factory

September 22, 1986|DAVE PALERMO | Times Staff Writer

A stunt man filming a practice jump was killed Sunday when he leaped 120 feet from the seventh floor of a downtown factory building and missed the center of an air bag intended to cushion his fall, Los Angeles fire officials said.

The stunt man, Brett Smrz, 26, of Calabasas, struck his head on the pavement when he jumped from the Mission Furniture Manufacturing Co. building at Industrial and Mateo streets about 9:15 a.m., Battalion Chief Tom McMaster said.

Massive Head Injuries

Smrz , a veteran stunt man who appeared in such moves as "V," "Turk 182" and "Rocky III," was taken by paramedics to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he died of massive head injuries at 10:04 a.m., hospital spokeswoman Adelaide de la Cerda said.

McMaster said Smrz, his twin brother, Brian Smrz--also a stunt man--and another brother, Greg, who served as a cameraman, were filming promotional shots to showcase their ability when the accident occurred. They did not have permission from the property owner or a city permit required to stage the stunt, McMaster said.

The Smrz brothers scaled a fire escape to get to a seventh-floor window, from which Brian Smrz made a successful leap into the 20-by-18-foot air bag, McMaster said. But when Brett Smrz jumped he hit the bag off-center.

"He did manage to hit some of the bag, but not enough to break the velocity of the fall," McMaster said.

Joani Camp, the Smrz brothers' agent, said Brett Smrz was proficient in fight sequences and falls. She said the brothers may have been practicing for an upcoming film titled "Masters of the Universe."

'Comes With Territory'

"His brothers are in shock now, but they'll be OK," Camp said. "Death is something everyone expects in this business. It comes with the territory."

Assistant Fire Chief Frank Borden was called to the scene because the air bag used by the stunt men is similar to one recently purchased by the city Fire Department as a rescue device.

"We want to find out what happened," Borden said. "Perhaps there's something we can learn from this tragedy."

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