Actor Tom Cruise flew in a helicopter across the Colombian Andes just 10 minutes before a small plane on the same flight path crashed into a jungled mountain, killing two crew members from his upcoming movie Mena, civil aviation authorities said.
An official with the aviation agency, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said the cause of the crash Friday that killed two people and seriously injured a third is still under investigation.
Those killed were veteran Hollywood pilot Alan Purwin and Venezuelan Carlos Berl, while another American, Jimmy Lee Garland, survived. All three were experienced pilots, the official said.
They crashed while returning to the city of Medellin on the twin-engine Piper-Aerostar 600 after a day of filming with Cruise for the film Mena, which stars the actor as American pilot Barry Seal, a drug runner recruited in the 1980s by the CIA to try to capture the late cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.
Cruise, a pilot, arrived in Medellin last month flying the same 1960s-era plane, which was similar to the one Seal would have flown for Escobar’s cartel, the official said. Photos of the actor sitting in the cockpit of the US-registered plane have circulated for days in Colombia media.
On Friday, Cruise left in one of two helicopters transporting crew from the colonial town of Santa Fe de Antioquia at around 5 p.m. 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.
A plane overhead located the downed aircraft just below a high ridge thanks to a distress signal, allowing rescuers to arrive to the crash site quickly and rush Garland to a hospital in Medellin, where he was in critical but stable condition.
“We were very lucky to get there so quickly,” said the official.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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