Three people were killed early Sunday morning in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles during filming for an unnamed military-style reality show for the Discovery Channel. The accident occurred at Polsa Rosa Movie Ranch, about 30 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, at around 3:30 a.m. Discovery Channel was working with renowned reality TV production company Eyeworks Inc.
Eyeworks named the three victims as: David Gibbs, 59, Darren Rydstrom, 45, and Michael Donatelli, 45. Gibbs was the helicoper pilot, his crew member was Rydstrom, and Donatelli was the featured cast member.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Cause of the Crash is Unknown
There have been no details revealed, if they are known, about what exactly caused the crash. The helicopter was provided to the filming crew by Crossbow Helicopters. The company had received FAA approval to take part in the filming and had every necessary credential to participate in the project. Owned by the pilot, David Gibbs, the company is based in Valencia, California.
2. Michael Donatelli Was Former U.S. Special Forces
Donatelli, one of the stars of the military-themed show, is a retired U.S. Special Forces engineer. During his military career he served four tours in Iraq. He began his military career as an Army Ranger in 1985 and left the military to become a cop in Washington, D.C. He worked in the police department’s Vice unit from 1990 to 1994, when D.C. was reaching a peak in drug crime.
He then re-entered the U.S. military in 1994, this time as a member of the Army’s 7th Special Forces group, nicknamed the Devil’s Brigade. He served at U.S. Embassies in Central and South America and also served in Iraq as a Staff Sergeant for Delta Force.
Since leaving the military for the second time, Donatelli has been an independent contractor, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also has worked for Amtrak as an anti-terrorism specialist.
3. The Ranch is Popular Amongst Filmmakers
Known as a “movie ranch,” Polsa Rosa was used for movies such as Wintalkers and the remake of Red Dawn.
4. This is the Second Death at the Ranch in Six Months
Last September, a crew member on set of the Johnny Depp movie The Lone Ranger suffered a heart attack while scuba diving in order to clear a pool that was being used for filming.
5. Eyeworks Inc. is one of the Biggest Names in Reality TV Production
The production company behind the show has also produced The Biggest Loser, Scott Baio is 45…and Single, and Celebrity Splash. The company’s U.S. office is based in Redondo Beach, California.
6. There is no Reference to the Crash on the Discovery Channel’s Website
As has been reported, 3 people passed in a helicopter crash while filming a new television reality series with our affiliate Eyeworks USA.
We share in our affiliates sympathies for the families and others who are now dealing with this tragedy and send them our warmest regards.
Discovery did release a statement to media outlets, saying:
A production company was shooting a show for Discovery Channel when this tragic accident occurred, we are all co-operating fully with authorities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families.
7. The Helicopter Involved in the Crash is Known as one of the Safest in the World
One of the selling points of the military-style Bell Helicopter 206-B is its advanced safety features — making it very popular for TV and movie productions. They are manufactured in Quebec, Canada, and are outfitted with engines made by Rolls-Royce.
8. Pilot David Gibbs Has Appeared in Many Hollywood Blockbusters
David Gene Gibbs is featured on IMDB as having appeared in The Lost World and Jackass 3D. As well as performing in movies as a pilot, he has served as a flight consultant for many Hollywood movies.
9. Darren Rydstorm was a Renowned Cinematographer
Rydstorm, similar to Gibbs, is well known within the entertainment industry. He worked as a cinematographer on movies such as Starship Troopers, did work for Playboy, and directed music videos for artists such as Sheryl Crow and Jenni Rivera, who tragically was killed in a plane crash last December.
10. The Crash Happened in the Same Region as the Twilight Zone Helicopter Crash
In 1982 during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie, a helicopter crash claimed the life of actor Vic Morrows. That crash occurred about 25 miles away from the recent crash. During The Twilight Zone incident, Morrows will killed along with two child actors, My-Ca Dinh Le (age 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6). During shooting for a scene set in Vietnam, the helicopter crashed after pyrotechnics went off prematurely. The chopper was hovering above Morrows and the children when it fell and killed all three.
In that incident a high-profile criminal and civil case followed, eventually resulting in director John Landis being cleared of manslaughter. The case included testimony from Steven Speilberg.