The aerial crash that killed three people working on a Discovery Channel reality TV production occurred when the helicopter collided into the base of a valley wall in Acton while preparing to shoot a scene for a military-themed show, federal aviation investigators said in a preliminary report issued Monday.
The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the Feb. 10 accident, but a preliminary report by the board provides new details on the circumstances surrounding the most serious film set accident in three decades in California.
According to the initial investigation, the accident happened about 3:30 a.m., shortly after the helicopter had taken off from a landing area at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in northern L.A. county. The helicopter was traveling along a valley toward a plateau, where the plan was to film an actor dropping a backpack to the ground.
Before the helicopter reached the ridge of the plateau, however, it hit a sloping dirt area at the base of a valley wall, resulting in a crash that killed the pilot, David Gibbs, 59, of Valencia; cameraman Darren Rydstrom, 45, of Whittier; and cast member Michael Donatelli, 45, of Indiana, Pa. The debris was scattered about 170 feet.