Two people are dead and one is in intensive care following a plane crash in the Colombian Andes. The small aircraft is linked to the production of the latest Tom Cruise film.
Those killed are Alan Purwin and Colombian Carlos Berl. A pilot from Georgia, Jimmy Lee Garland, is now in intensive care, where his family said he is doing well, WXIA added.
According to NBC News, the crash of the twin-engine Piper-Aerostar could’ve been caused by a bout of bad weather. It went down only 10 minutes after it took off from a town called Santa Fe de Antioquia, headed toward the city of Medellin. The pilot never reported an emergency to air traffic controllers.
On Friday, Tom took a helicopter from Santa Fe de Antioquia, his destination also Medellin. They expected the plane carrying Purwin, Berl, and Garland to arrive before nightfall, FoxNews Latino added. When the plane never arrived, they called air traffic controllers.
Luckily, the search plane found the Piper-Aerostar below a high ridge, and Jimmy Lee inside. The quick response meant he was able to get to the hospital soon after the crash.
Both had just returned from a day of working on the film Mena.
The flight path both the downed aircraft and the helicopter took may be brief, but it’s described as a “bungee jump.” The route begins at sea level, then ascends to a height of almost 10,000 feet in order to emerge safely from the Andes. Then it descends into the steep valley around Medellin.
Purwin, Berl, and Garland had flown this route from the film set a half-dozen times recently; this time, they may not have had instruments. Heavy cloud cover may also be to blame.
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In an eerie twist, Cruise was seen exiting what may be the same Piper-Aerostar involved in Friday’s crash when he arrived in the area on Aug. 20 to start shooting Mena. Tom had apparently been flying it, but had a Colombian co-pilot. The 1960s-era plane was a bit like the one Cruise’s character in Mena would’ve flown.
Purwin owned Los Angeles-based Helinet Technologies, which provided aerial surveillance for law enforcement, but was also flew in blockbusters Transformers, Pearl Harbor, and Pirates of the Caribbean. He was also the first pilot to transport a vital organ in LA and was part of rescue efforts during Hurricane Katrina.
“There are no words that can express our heartache for we have lost one of the world’s greatest helicopter pilots and one of aviation’s greatest leaders,” Helinet said in a statement.
Jimmy Lee was to be Tom Cruise’s flying double in the film, BBC News added; he was flight instructor and manager of an airport near Atlanta. Mena producers brought him to Colombia after seeing his flying skills in Georgia.
After Friday’s crash, he had to undergo three surgeries and will now be treated by a specialist.
In this latest film, Tom cruise plays American pilot and drug runner Barry Seal, enlisted by the CIA to help capture cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. He was killed by Escobar’s assassins in 1986.
[Photo Courtesy Kevin Lee/Getty Images]