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Scale Model Presented To Jurors

October 7, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A model of the ″Twilight Zone″ movie set, showing a shattered helicopter and the toppled chair of actor Vic Morrow, was shown to jurors Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of director John Landis and four others.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy John Shannon testified he constructed the three-dimensional set to scale, based on sketches he made several hours after the July 23, 1982, accident that killed Morrow and two children.

Defense attorneys were anxious to let jurors know that Shannon arrived at the scene in Indian Dunes park nearly six hours after the crash.

″It (the model) does not purport to be the way the scene was at 2:20 a.m.?″ asked Landis defense attorney James Neal.

″No sir,″ replied Shannon, who is assigned to the sheriff’s graphic arts unit and has recorded 750 crime scenes.

Morrow, 53, and actors Myca Dinh Le, 7, and Renee Chen, 6, were killed when a helicopter crashed on them during location shooting in Valencia, 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The accident occurred during filming of the simulated bombing of a Vietnamese village.

Landis, associate producer George Folsey Jr., unit production manager Dan Allingham, pilot Dorcey Wingo and special effects crew chief Paul Stewart are charged with involuntary manslaughter.

As Shannon testified, actor Ralph Bellamy, whom Landis directed in the movie ″Trading Places,″ sat in the audience. The actor said he was in court to show his support of Landis.

Before the jury was shown the model, Neal objected to such details as explosive mortar pots shown out of place from their location during the scene. But Superior Court Judge Roger Boren said such discrepancies could be brought out in cross-examination, and permitted the 4 1/2-foot-by-3 1/2-foot display to be used as an exhibit.

Details of the scale-model set included a toppled ″director’s style″ chair with ″Vic Morrow″ written on the back, scorched walls on a canyon from explosions and fires, and an HO-scale helicopter lying on its side. The set model was trimmed with model trees such as architects use, and the Santa Clara River was represented by a shiny plastic surface.

Shannon used another helicopter model on stick to represent to jurors the craft’s 25-foot altitude over the river at the time of the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the accident’s probable cause was the helicopter’s closeness to the explosions, which threw debris into the tail rotor.

The crash prompted a reappraisal of safety standards in the movie industry and resulted in more stringent protections for child actors.

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