Renowned Pilot Killed in Tom Cruise Movie Crash Had Long Career, Worked With Charity | NBC 6 South Florida

Renowned Pilot Killed in Tom Cruise Movie Crash Had Long Career, Worked With Charity



    A Los Angeles-based film pilot was among the dead in the crash involving a small plane assigned to a Tom Cruise movie crew. Kate Larsen reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. (Published Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015)

    One of the men killed in a plane crash in the Colombian Andes Friday, while working on a new Tom Cruise movie, was an innovative aerial cinematographer who'd recently posted several photos of his work with the actor to social media.

    Alan Purwin was a pioneer in the film industry, working on blockbusters like "Transformers," "Pearl Harbor" and "Tropic Thunder." He was in Colombia to work on a new Tom Cruise movie called "Mena."

    Purwin was killed Friday when the twin-engine plane he was in with two other men ran into bad weather, killing Purwin and Venezuelan Carlos Berl, and leaving the third passenger seriously injured, Colombian officials said.

    They crashed while returning to the city of Medellin on the twin-engine Piper-Aerostar 600 after a day of filming with Cruise for "Mena," which stars the actor as American pilot Barry Seal, a drug runner recruited in the 1980s by the CIA to try to capture the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.

    "Our hearts and prayers go out to the crew members and their families at this difficult time," Universal Pictures, which is distributing the film, said in a statement. It declined further comment, saying more details weren't available.

    Purwin was a film and stunt pilot who in 1987 founded a helicopter company called Helinet, which is based in Van Nuys Airport near Hollywood.

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    The company serves the film and news industries; is the primary helicopter provider for Children's Hospital Los Angeles, transporting critically ill children; and is also involved in vital organ transportation.

    "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 CEO Steve Gatena said in a statement.

    An airplane pilot at an early age, Purwin said he started flying helicopters at his father's suggestion when he got "bored going from point A to point B," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2005, about two years after flying a helicopter inside an automobile tunnel for "The Italian Job"

    "I went on a quick ride and I was completely hooked," he said of his discovery of helicopters.

    Purwin posted a picture on Instagram two weeks ago with Cruise, next to the plane that crashed.

    On the Helinet website, the family is asking for donations to be made to Children's Hospital in Purwin's memory.

    This is the second time an aviator has died while working on a film with Cruise. Famed stunt pilot Art Scholl went down in waters near San Diego while performing a nose dive during the 1985 making of "Top Gun."

    Cruise's spokeswoman, Amanda Lundberg, had no comment on Friday's accident and the film's director Doug Liman as well as local and US-based producers did not reply to emails and phone calls from the Associated Press seeking comment.

    Colombia's jagged terrain, heavy rainfall and long, empty distances makes it one of the most dangerous places in the world for aviators. Medellin's Olaya Herrera airport has been the site of numerous accidents since the 1935 crash that killed famed Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel. It closes at night and allows only domestic flights.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.