Tom Cruise flew in a helicopter across the Colombian Andes just 10 minutes before a small plane on the same dangerous flight path crashed into a jungled mountain, killing two crew members from his upcoming movie.
The crew had just wrapped up production on the upcoming Doug Liman film Mena when it went down on Friday while returning to Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin.
“On behalf of the production, our hearts and prayers go out to the crew members and their families at this difficult time,” Universal Pictures said in a statement.
The twin-engine plane went down near the town of San Pedro de los Milagros in a mountainous area of Colombia’s department of Antioquia.
On Friday, Cruise left in one of two helicopters transporting crew from the colonial town of Santa Fe de Antioquia at around 5pm local time.
When they arrived at Medellin’s Olaya Herrera airport with nightfall approaching, and the plane didn’t show up, they alerted air traffic controllers, the official said.
It’s 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.
Colombia’s jagged terrain, heavy rainfall and long, empty distances makes it one of the most dangerous places in the world for aviators.
Cruise arrived in Colombia on August 20 to record scenes for the film based on the life of American pilot Barry Seal, who worked for Pablo Escobar, the drug kingpin who was killed in Medellin in 1993.
The two dead passengers, both Americans, were identified as Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl.
The plane’s pilot, Jimmy Lee Garland, was injured in the crash and is being treated at a Medellin hospital, where aviation officials said his condition was stable.
Garland suffered a hip fracture and other injuries, and underwent surgery on Saturday.
Purwin was a founder of Helinet, the company which owned the plane involved in the crash.
It provides aviation services for the movie industry, as well as news and medical companies.
Steve Gatena, chief executive of the California-based firm, paid tribute to Purwin as “a great man, a world-renowned aviator, and a brilliant entrepreneur”.
“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,” Gatena said.
Officials said that, at the time of the crash, flying conditions were generally good and there was still daylight.