The Discovery Channel has settled a lawsuit for the wrongful deaths of two members of a production team who died during a helicopter accident while on a production set.
Michael Donatelli, 45, was a decorated veteran of the U.S. Army who served in the Iraq war. He retired from the military in 2009 and started a security-consulting firm in Pennsylvania. In 2013 a friend from the Army reached out to him about Discovery Channel’s new military show “Lone Operator”. He began working on the show as a consultant and narrator that same year. Darren Rydstrom was a cameraman on the show at the time. Both of the men were in a helicopter being flown by pilot David Gibbs when it flew too close to the ground and crashed into slope. None of the three men survived. The helicopter accident was the most fatal film set accident in Southern California in over 30 years.
The families of Donatelli and Rydstrom filed lawsuits after the helicopter accident claiming that Discovery was negligent in the hiring of Gibbs. According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s records Gibbs was not authorized to fly in the early morning, which is when the helicopter accident occurred. Furthermore, Gibbs had already had his pilot’s license suspended twice. One of those suspensions was because of a 2003 incident in which Gibbs flew a helicopter into a power line. The incident occurred during the filming of an episode of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” in Kingman, Arizona.
Discovery and their counsel disputed these claims, but declined to comment after the settlement was reached. Both suits were settled for undisclosed amounts that were approved by the Los Angeles Superior Court last month.
If you have been injured due to negligence and are in need of a personal injury lawyer in southern California, please contact the Booth & Koskoff office nearest you for a free personal injury case evaluation.
Photo by Glen Carrie via Unsplash.