Helicopters collision on French TV set in Argentina called “Dropped”. Ten people deceased after two helicopters collided during the filming of a TV reality show in La Rioja, Argentina, on 9 March 2015

by | 12 Dec 2020

Le Tutour Avocats represents the members of the family of one of the employees of the production company, which was found liable for their damages 

On 9 March 2015, during the filming of the reality show called Dropped, the concept of which was stopped as a result of the accident, four former top French sportsmen and sportswomen and four technicians employed by the production company Adventures Line Productions were in two helicopters which, during an improvised formation flight, collided causing the death of all ten people on board, including the two pilots. 

A criminal investigation for involuntary manslaughter was opened at the Paris Court of Justice. A criminal  investigation procedure was also initiated in Argentina. A technical investigation was started by the Junta de Investigacion, de Accidentes de Aviacion Civil (JIAAC), the Argentinian counterpart of the French Bureau d’Enquête et d’Analyse (BIA) and gave rise to the publication of an investigation report.

The latter mapped the 360° trajectory of the two helicopters flying in formation before their collision as follows:

According to the JIIAC report, the manoeuvre that led to the accident was due to a combination of factors, including:

  • Absence of preparation of an unusual operation (filming during close flying)
  • A lack of specific training of the pilots to the formation flying techniques
  • the lack of a formal operational safety risk assessment procedure which prevented the identification and analysis of the dangers inherent in such an operation
  • the use of aircraft with a public identification prefix that did not involve providing the logistics and air support of a shooting.

The mother, widow and children of the cameraman, who was, at the request of his employer, the production company, harnessed with the door open in one of these two helicopters, brought an action before the Tribunal des Affaires de Sécurité Sociale (TASS) of Nanterre to have the employer’s inexcusable fault judicially recognised. 

The TASS of Nanterre recognised the employer’s inexcusable fault. 

The Versailles Court of Appeal, before which the employer appealed, confirmed the first instance judgment and ruled on 27th May 2021 that :

“In deciding to organise the flight in question in the manner the employer it did, the Company took a risk which was the direct and certain cause of the accident of which L. S. was a victim. In other words, it is particularly inaccurate to consider, as the Company does, that it “could not take the slightest measure to protect the passengers of the helicopters from such a piloting error’: it would have been sufficient for it to make, for example, the decision to exclude the possibility of any formation flight or, above all, more simply, to make the decision to have the helicopters take off more than one minute apart or, even more simply, to have them leave directly in the direction of their destination. 

The opposite decision was made, without the extra required precautions be implemented, without even carrying out a test flight without passengers, without even ensuring that there was a means of communication between the aircrafts or between them and the ground. It should be pointed out that both Sax Logistica’s intervention (assuming, moreover, that it extended to the Rioja site) and that of Expeditionary Solutions (whose safety plan is silent on the preparation of the flights themselves) remained under the supervision, direction and control of ALP, whose production manager, Nicolas R, was on site.

The safety and security plan, dated 23 February 2015, while including measures for helicopter transport, only mentions the risks of falling from a door and being hit by the tail rotor. 

Finally, even if it had been necessary to fly the helicopters along the chosen trajectory, i.e. a 360° rotation, according to a witness, who was not contradicted by the Company, there were technical means to avoid images being taken by an on-board cameraman and to fly the aircraft at a greater distance from each other. The Company did not take the necessary measures to safeguard the health and safety of its employee.”

The employer lodged an appeal before the Court of Cassation.