Cinematographer dies in sand dune accident involving Chapman and USC film students


People walk on the USC campus in January 2019. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

A 29-year-old student cinematographer was killed on Friday when an all-terrain vehicle carrying a group of young filmmakers overturned in the Imperial Valley, authorities said.

The group, which included Chapman University’s cinematographer and three USC film students, were taking photos on a large sand dune in the Imperial Sand Dunes recreation area, a spokesperson said Monday. of the California Highway Patrol.

Officer Arturo Platero said the students’ all-terrain vehicle had climbed the dune to the ridge when it backed up or went over the ridge and rolled over.

“Everyone on board was wearing their safety harnesses except for the deceased,” Platero said. “The individual sustained fatal injuries in the rollover.”

The deceased student, a Walnut resident, had served as cinematographer on a production with students from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Elizabeth Daley, the school’s dean, said in a statement Monday.

Daley did not provide further details about what the students were doing on the sand dunes.

“Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family members of the deceased student for this tragic loss,” Daley said. “We also send our condolences to the Chapman University community.”

Representatives from Chapman University did not respond to requests for comment, and USC referred questions to the CHP.

Bureau of Land Management public affairs officer Kate Miyamoto said the incident happened near Osborne Overlook, a dune area popular with off-roaders.

She said BLM officials came to the scene to help. BLM issues filming permits, but it was unclear whether the students were filming at the time of death or had permits.

While it’s unclear what the group did and whether the excursion was part of a film production, the death raises questions about whether safety protocols were breached during a film project .

It comes six months after the high-profile murder of another cinematographer on the set of a low-budget western in New Mexico.

Halyna Hutchins, a 42-year-old American Film Institute graduate, was killed when actor Alec Baldwin fired a gun during rehearsals for the movie “Rust.” The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating how a live bullet ended up in the bedroom.

The filming of “Rust” last fall sparked an outcry over the safety of the set. The Hutchins family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the film’s producers. The shooting also injured director Joel Souza.

The industry has been hampered by a series of fatal injuries in recent years. A Los Angeles Times review of US government data and published reports shows that at least 19 fatal injuries occurred on film sets nationwide from 2010 to 2019, the last year for which data was available. available.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.


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