Movie Studios Blamed for Fatal Plane Crash

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A pilot working on the Tom Cruise film “Mena” died when producers let an inexperienced pilot fly the plane and he crashed it in the Andes, the man’s family claim in court.
     Kathryn Purwin sued Cross Creek Pictures, Imagine Entertainment, Quadrant Pictures, Vendian Entertainment, and the Estate of Carlos Berl, on Friday in Superior Court. Her late husband, Alan, was 54 when he died in the plane crash in Colombia.
     “Mena” stars Tom Cruise as Barry Seal, a convicted drug smuggler who cut a plea deal by working for the CIA in the 1980s, allegedly to try to capture Medellin cartel boss Pablo Escobar.
     Seal’s exploits have been featured in several books, including Guy Gugliotta’s 2011 book, “Kings of Cocaine.” Cruise, who is not a party to the lawsuit, plays Seal in the movie.
     Purwin claims that after completing principal photography on Sept. 11, 2015, the production studios invited Carlos Berl to fly the twin-engine Piper Aerostar used in the movie, though he was not a member of the cast or crew.
     Berl was flying over rugged terrain in the Colombian Andes when he crashed, killing himself and Purwin, his passenger.
     His widow and her two adult children claim Berl lacked the skill and experience to fly the plane, and that letting him do so violated the studios’ own production policies.
     None of the defendants immediately returned emailed requests for comment Monday.
     The family seeks funeral expenses and damages for wrongful death, loss of consortium, and loss care, support, and earnings.
     They are represented by Doug Griffith of Pasadena, who did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.
     Purwin was an aerial film operator and helicopter pilot who worked on several movies, including “Pearl Harbor,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the “Transformers” series. He also flew missions for critically ill children, according to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times.
     The movie is called “Mena” because Barry Seal used a small airport in that Arkansas for some of his drug smuggling. Conspiracy theorists used the Arkansas connection to try to link President Bill Clinton to drug smuggling during his presidency, though the actual Seal story is far more interesting.
     Seal flew cocaine into the United States for the Medellin cartel, for as much as $500,000 a flight. After he was convicted of drug charges in the United States he offered to work for the CIA, which used him in a famous sting in which cameras hidden in a CIA plane purported to show Pablo Escobar loading kilos onto the plane at a clandestine airstrip in Nicaragua.
     The Reagan administration then released the CIA photos and used them to allege Sandinista involvement in drug smuggling during the Contra war.
     Seal was murdered in Baton Rouge in 1986, allegedly by cartel hitmen. However, the Louisiana attorney general quickly hand-delivered a 5-page letter to U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, asking why Seal had not been protected as a federal witness. That led to more conspiracy allegations: that Seal was murdered to keep him from testifying about CIA and National Security Agency involvement in cocaine smuggling and the Contra war.
     Shortly afterward, another CIA plane crashed in Nicaragua and the cargo kicker who survived, Eugene Hasenfus, revealed the CIA involvement in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair.

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