Share story

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lawsuits over a 2013 helicopter crash that killed three men during the filming of a reality television show for the Discovery Channel have been settled, court records show.

Records show the settlement was reported to a Los Angeles court on Aug. 4, but no details on the settlements were publicly filed. Five cases were filed over the February 2013 crash in a remote part of northern Los Angeles County.

The copter’s pilot, a participant in the untitled military-themed show and a cameraman were killed during the early-morning crash. National Transportation Safety Board investigators released a report in June that faulted the pilot for flying the helicopter despite having difficulty seeing because of a light being inside the cockpit for filming.

“The settlement provides justice and closure for the families, and hopefully will encourage media producers that safety on the set is the top priority,” attorney Kevin Boyle, who represented the family of former Special Forces Ranger Michael Donatelli, said in a statement Monday.

The Discovery Channel declined comment.

Donatelli was taking part in a planned reality show that was filming in rugged terrain in Acton in northern Los Angeles County. The flight was the second segment being filmed on a moonless night with little ground illumination.

The pilot, David Gibbs, complained on an earlier filming flight that night that the light being used to illuminate an actor in the cockpit was making it difficult for him to see, according to the NTSB’s probable cause report.

Moments before the crash, cameraman Darren Rydstrom instructed Donatelli to turn off the light illuminating his face so that Gibbs could see better, according to the NTSB report.

Audio recorded moments before the crash showed confusion in the cockpit of the Bell 206B helicopter.

“Where did, uh, we’re going down low,” the cameraman said moments before the crash, according to the NTSB report.

“OK, OK, I can’t,” Gibbs was heard saying before Rydstrom told him, “Pull up, pull up.”

During the previous flight. Gibbs reported trouble seeing and thanked production workers for allowing him to do multiple passes and not pressuring him, the report stated.

The investigator noted that Gibbs’ comments indicated he was amenable to requests for certain shots despite his difficulty seeing the terrain.

The filming was organized by the production company EyeWorks USA, which has since rebranded itself as 3 Ball Entertainment. The company declined comment on the settlements.

A trial in the lawsuits had been scheduled for October.


Anthony McCartney can be reached at