Saturday, February 04, 2012

Robinson R44 Raven II, Bankstown Helicopter Pty. Ltd., VH-COK: Fatal accident occurred February 04, 2012 at Jaspers Brush Airfield, Shoalhaven about 2 km SW of Berry, NSW - Australia

Michael Hanrahan

Mike deGruy

Shannon Kelley

Gene Montesano and Mike DeGruy

This helicopter crashed at an airport in Jaspers Brush, South of Sydney killing two men. 

This helicopter had crashed at an airport in Jaspers Brush, South of Sydney killing two men.
Picture: Channel 9.

Santa Barbara cinematographer Mike deGruy was reported killed in a helicopter crash Friday in New South Wales, Australia.

According to KEYT, deGruy, 60, was in Australia to scout locations for an upcoming documentary project.

The Age newspaper in Melbourne reported that deGruy and the helicopter pilot were killed when their aircraft crashed and burst into flames during takeoff near Berry on the south coast of New South Wales. Local authorities said both men died at the scene.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

An accomplished diver and underwater cinematographer, DeGruy founded his aptly named production company, the Film Crew Inc., and traveled the world, making films for the BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and PBS.
He was a host and expedition member on Mysteries of the Shark Coast with Céline Cousteau and Richard Fitzpatrick. A shark attack survivor himself, deGruy was a regular on the Discovery Channel’s popular Shark Week.

 DeGruy frequently worked on film projects with his wife, Mimi, and the family has been a mainstay at Santa Barbara Middle School. He also was active in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

He was a popular speaker at the 2010 and 2011 TEDxAmericanRiviera events in Santa Barbara.

“We are saddened by the news that ocean photographer, filmmaker and storyteller Mike deGruy died yesterday in a helicopter crash in Australia,” the TED Blog posted Saturday afternoon.

“Mike was truly one of the great teachers and advocates for the oceans.”
DeGruy is survived by his wife and their two teenage children. Funeral services are pending.

Mike DeGruy, the internationally respected and unanimously liked documentarian of underwater nature films who called Santa Barbara home, died today in a helicopter crash in Australia today at just before 4 p.m. local time. He had just turned 60 years old at the end of December, and leaves behind his wife and two children.

In charge of curating the “Reel Nature” sidebar of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for the past decade, DeGruy was missing his first film fest in nine years, according to his Twitter page ( He was in Australia to work on his next project, and was slated to continue working sometime next week in Papau New Guinea. The crash, which also killed a pilot from Melbourne, occurred near the town of Nowra on the New South Wales coast, according to an article in The Age. It happened during take-off, but the cause is still under investigation. Read that full report here.

Roger Durling, the executive director of the film festival, called DeGruy “one of my best friends” said he was “heartbroken” by the news. “The Santa Barbara Film Festival has lost one of our family members: Mike DeGruy, underwater filmmaker and curator of the Reel Nature series and the force behind Field Trip to the movies,” said Durling. “Our thoughts are with his wife Mimi and his children. His enthusiasm and sense of adventure inspired all of us at SBIFF. Knowing him well, he would have wanted us to carry on today enjoying and celebrating movies.”

You can read more about Mike DeGruy’s extraordinary life here.

TWO men killed in a fiery helicopter crash during take-off from an airstrip on the NSW south coast were heading to nearby Jervis Bay to film a documentary.

David Bennett, president of the South Coast Recreational Flying Club, says he was standing just six metres from the helicopter when it crashed during take-off from the Jaspers Brush airfield, south of Berry, about 3.55pm (AEDT) on Saturday.

Mr Bennett said he met the men, who were off to do some filming for a documentary, for the first time today, before he watched the crash unfold.

"Something has gone wrong and they have crashed to the ground and burned," Mr Bennett said.

"I don't know who they were, other than to say, 'G'day' when they arrived.

"They were filming a documentary down in Jervis Bay.

"They had a pilot and cameraman on board and they were taking off together to do some filming."

A Rural Fire Service (RFS) spokesman said crews arrived at the scene to find the helicopter well alight.

The crash had occurred near a hangar and people there had already started fighting the fire before crews arrived, the spokesman said.

The fire burned "mostly within the cabin area" of the helicopter before sparking a grass fire, he said.

The two men died at the scene.

Police have established a crime scene and will prepare a report for the coroner.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is arranging a team of investigators to examine the scene, said spokesman Mike Walker.

Two investigators from Canberra and two from Brisbane will arrive at the site tomorrow morning.

Mr Walker said the helicopter was a Robinson R44.

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