Plenty of planes go down each year in the mountains and jungles of South America. This one, a twin-engine Piper Smith Aerostar 600, had been ferrying three pilots who were working on a film: Alan Purwin, 51, one of Hollywood’s most sought-after helicopter stunt operators; Carlos Berl, 58, a well-qualified airman who knew how to navigate the red tape of the plane import-export business; and Georgia native Jimmy Lee Garland, 55, who could fly and repair just about anything. The flight took off after a long day of filming for American Made, a Doug Liman feature starring Tom Cruise, 55, as a drug smuggler turned CIA pilot, which is set to be released by Universal Pictures on Sept. 29. Filming had been underway for weeks in the hills in northeast Colombia, near the border with Panama. But the filmmakers were based in Medellin, 35 miles to the southeast. This early-evening flight on Sept. 11, 2015, was supposed to be a short taxi ride home.
……Berl and Purwin are dead, while Garland has been left without feeling across much of his lower body. The families of Purwin and Berl are suing producers Imagine Entertainment, Vendian Entertainment and Cross Creek Pictures for wrongful death and other damages, alleging that, in a rush to wrap up filming and save money, production and aviation companies ignored basic safety considerations. The families of both dead men also are suing each other, and Berl’s family is going after Garland, the survivor, alleging negligence.
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To complicate matters, Great American Insurance, which initially indemnified the production companies, recently filed suit in a federal district court in California to disclaim responsibility and look for relief from having to pay under the $50 million general coverage policy, alleging that the flight in question, as well as other flights conducted during the course of production, may have been performed illegally…..
Was a tragedy during the production of Cruise’s ‘American Made’ preventable? Conflicting accounts and a pilot in a “death pool” raise questions about safety and the filmmakers’ role in it all: “Hollywood cut corners.”