Australian filmmaker Andrew Wight was killed over the weekend in a tragic helicopter crash. He was 52.
Best known for producing and co-writing last year’s 3D feature film Sanctum, Wight and American cinematographer Mike deGruy, who also died in the crash, were flying around NSW’s south coast when the chopper crashed.
A NSW police media report said emergency services were called to the scene at about 3.55pm on Saturday at an airstrip in Jaspers Brush, near Nowra. NSW Police and other emergency services attended and found the helicopter – a Robinson R-44 – well alight.
The pair were working together on a new National Geographic project when the accident happened.
National Geographic Society president Tim Kelly paid tribute to the pair, saying both Andrew and Mike were part of the society’s extended family.
“Our hearts, prayers, and thoughts go out to their loved ones. They accomplished so much, but were taken too early, and our world is greatly diminished by their leaving it.”
The tragedy comes less than three weeks after Wight and James Cameron launched a Melbourne office for their CAMERON | PACE Group.
Both sharing a passion for diving, Wight and Cameron met more than 10 years ago and have remained close ever since. Their passion led to them working on such diving-related projects as Ghosts of the Abyss (2003), and Aliens of the Deep (2005). He also worked with Cameron on designing the 3D technology behind Avatar.
“Mike and Andrew were like family to me,” Cameron said in a statement. “They were my deep-sea brothers and both were true explorers who did extraordinary things and went places no human being has been. Their deaths are a tremendous loss for the world of underwater exploration, conservation, and filmmaking."
Cameron said flying a helicopter was like “second-nature” to Wight. “Andrew was kind and loyal, full of life and a sense of fun, and above all, a careful planner who stressed safety to everyone on his team every single day. It is cruelly ironic that he died flying a helicopter, which was second nature to him, like driving a car would be to most people."
Cameron and Wight famously worked together on Sanctum, which was one of the most successful Australian films of all time, grossing more than $US108 million.
The film's director, Alister Grierson, told IF that Wight was a "larger-than-life figure". "He was a genuine self-made man and over-achiever and will be greatly missed by a vast amount of people from different walks of life – cavers, divers, aviators, farmers and adventurers, as well as the natural history, documentary and broader film community.
"He had a young family and still had a lot more to give – it's a tragedy."
Wight's other credits included The Deep Probe Expeditions and The Adventures of the Quest and he headed Great Wight Productions.
The weekend helicopter crash was the second in under six months to rock the Australian screen industry. Last August, a helicopter crash took the life of respected pilot Gary Ticehurst.
Wight leaves behind his wife and infant son, while deGruy – a multiple BAFTA and Emmy winner – is survived by his wife and two children.
On the Sanctum set: Director Alister Grierson, James Cameron and Andrew Wight