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Parachutist in Willis Film Presumed Dead Off Pismo

October 31, 2002|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Rescue workers scouring the ocean for a parachutist who disappeared off Pismo Beach during the filming of a movie said Wednesday that he is presumed dead and that they are now looking for the body.

Michael K. Barber, 39, of Phoenix, jumped from an airplane with eight other chutists Tuesday as part of a shoot for a Bruce Willis movie about Navy SEALs.

The men were supposed to land on the beach at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, but two drifted off course and into the surf.

One man was quickly pulled to safety. But Barber disappeared into the water and has not been seen.

On Wednesday, the Screen Actors Guild, of which Barber was a member, dispatched representatives from its national stunt and safety department to investigate the incident.

The union created the special branch a year ago to look into accidents and deaths on shoots, spokeswoman Ilyanne Kichaven said.

In the movie, which is called "Tears of the Sun" and is set to be released in March, Willis plays a Special Operations commander who leads his team into the jungle of Nigeria to rescue a doctor and refugee children.

Most of the movie has been shot, and neither the director nor Willis was in Pismo Beach on Tuesday. In a statement, officials at Revolution Studios in Santa Monica said they were cooperating with the investigation.

"This is a devastating event for all involved," the statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mike Barber."

Oceano Dunes park is a popular spot for filming, said Baxter Boyington of the San Luis Obispo film commission. Cecile B. DeMille's 1923 "The Ten Commandments" was filmed there.

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Times staff writer Lorenza Munoz contributed to this report.

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