The family of beloved Santa Barbara filmmaker Mike DeGruy, who died in February 2012 due to a helicopter crash at an airport in Australia, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against director James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and the Robinson Helicopter Company. DeGruy and pilot Andrew Wight, who also died in the crash, were taking off to go film some ocean footage for an upcoming Cameron production when their Robinson-made R44 helicopter dropped from about 10 feet in the air and burst into flames. The model, which some have called the “Ford Pinto” of helicopters, has been involved in numerous other lawsuits around the world.
The family believes that Wight, whose production company Earthship Pods and estate were also named in the suit, reached to close an open door shortly after takeoff and then lost control of the helicopter. The suit contends that Cameron’s company should have known that Wight “was incompetent or unfit to fly the subject helicopter,” and that Robinson has long been aware of the “propensity of its helicopters’ aluminum fuel tanks to rupture on impact,” but did not fix the defects.