Mobile, Alabama, native and famed documentary producer Mike deGruy died Saturday in a helicopter crash shortly after take-off from an Australian airport.
Mr. deGruy, 60, was an one of the world’s top underwater cinematographers whose filmmaking included the BBC’s Blue Planet: Seas of Life series and director James Cameron’s daring documentary Last Mysteries of the Titanic. His camerawork for the Blue Planet series won him an Emmy award.
Also an avid scuba diver and former collegiate diving champion, Mr. deGruy was an adventurer whose work behind the camera took him all over the globe to shoot in a variety of marine environments. He was in Australia working on a new project and was set to begin filming a feature-length production in New Guinea next week.
Also killed in the crash was pilot Andrew Wight, 52, an Australian filmmaker and avid cave diver whose work included several nature documentaries and the recent blockbuster Sanctum, about a group of cave explorers who become lost in a subterranean cave.
According to the New York Times, Mr. deGruy and Mr. Wight took off in a Robinson R44 helicopter from an airstrip in Jasper’s Brush, about 50 miles southwest of Sydney. The crash occurred near the town of Nowra on the coast of New South Wales. Little information has been reported about the crash, which remains under investigation, except that the helicopter burst into flames shortly after taking off.
Director James Cameron, best known for his 1997 blockbusting epic Titanic, paid tribute to the two men in a statement he released.
“Mike and Andrew were like family to me. They were my deep-sea brothers, and both were true explorers, who did extraordinary things and went places no human being has been. They were passionate storytellers who lived by the explorer’s code of humor, empathy, optimism, and courage. Their deaths are a tremendous loss for the world of underwater exploration, conservation, and filmmaking,” Cameron said.
Mr. deGruy, a resident of Santa Barbara California, left behind his wife and two children.