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Helicopter Crashes, Killing Co-Pilot, During Shooting of TV Commercial

August 21, 1996

LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) _ A military-type Cobra helicopter crashed in the Mojave Desert during shooting of a TV commercial, killing the co-pilot and injuring two others, authorities said.

The aircraft, one of just a few privately owned attack helicopters, was swooping in through rocky outcroppings when it plummeted into a makeshift set for a Black & Decker commercial Tuesday afternoon, witnesses said.

There was no fire.

Co-pilot Michael Edward Tamburro, 38, of suburban Woodland Hills was killed, said coroner’s investigator Michael Riddle. The co-pilot sits in the front of the two-seat Cobra.

Pilot Alan Purwin, 34, was treated for a broken arm and a 27-year-old member of the production crew on the ground was cut by flying debris, said Capt. Ken Sotro of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.

The helicopter was owned by West Coast Helicopters in suburban Van Nuys. Tamburro and Purwin were experienced pilots who provided aerial shots in the recent movie ``The Rock.″

The crash site, often used for Hollywood production, is at the base of a rocky butte about 80 miles north of Los Angeles.

``As he went in between the rocks at low altitude it seemed like he got into a gust of wind or in a pocket and it kind of looked like for second that the helicopter just stalled on him,″ said witness Danny Estrada.

``In that second when he stalled, the copter kind of banked to its right and when they did that the propeller didn’t have any room so it started to clip the mountainside, you know, off the rocks and that’s when he lost it,″ Estrada said.

The production company didn’t have a permit to use a helicopter in the shoot, Firefighter Dave Crall said today. The county Fire Department issues filming permits for unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

``We were not informed that they were going to use a helicopter. They were not permitted to have one. ... It’s all under investigation,″ Crall said.

Tamburro was a co-founder of West Coast Helicopters, and he frequently flew the ``KTLA Morning News″ traffic helicopter. Traffic reporter Jennifer York, who flew with Tamburro, expressed sympathy to the family.

``Our hearts just go out to them and our prayers,″ York said.

The crew was working for Propaganda Film of Hollywood, which was shooting a commercial for the Black & Decker tool company, said Pat Kingsley, publicist for Propaganda.

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