Hollywood filmmakers Mike deGruy and Andrew Wright killed in Australian helicopter crash

MELBOURNE, Australia – The award-winning American cinematographer, Mike deGruy (60), and Australian writer-producer, Andrew Wright (51), have died in a helicopter crash off the east coast of Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Wright was piloting the helicopter, which crashed down during take-off from an airstrip on the south coast of New South Wales on Saturday afternoon local time. DeGruy was the only other person on board.

The president of the local South Coast Recreational Flying Club, David Bennett, witnessed the crash. The Herald Sun and The Australian newspapers say Bennett had spoken to the men shortly beforehand and they had told him they were setting out to nearby Jervis Bay to film part of a documentary.

Tributes are already being paid to deGruy, who was an award-winning cinematography, specialised in shooting underwater. His website says he had won several BAFTA and Emmy awards for his work.

The Deep Sea News said of deGruy's death: "It’s a great loss for the world whenever someone passes who has devoted their career to conveying to the public the beauty and wonder of the oceans.”

The TED blog also posted a tribute, saying: "Mike was truly one of the great teachers and advocates for the oceans."

Wright, meanwhile, was the writer-producer behind Sanctum, which took in US$100 million last year, becoming the most successful Australian film of 2011. The Deadline Hollywood website describes him as the “right-hand man” of Avatar and Titanic director James Cameron. They worked together on Sanctum and less than three weeks ago Wright had been named as head of Cameron Pace, Cameron’s first international 3D production office, based in Melbourne, Australia.

"Mike and Andrew were like family to me," AP reports Cameron as saying. "Both were true explorers who did extraordinary things and went places no human being has been."

DeGruy leaves behind his wife and two teenage children. Wight is survived by his wife and an infant.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.