Changing Planet

Celebrated Filmmakers Killed in Australian Helicopter Crash

Two world-renowned filmmakers were killed in a helicopter crash in Australia on Saturday. Mike deGruy, a biologist and conservationist, and Andrew Wight, a pilot and underwater cave diver, were working with James Cameron and National Geographic on a documentary film.

James Cameron and National Geographic released this statement:

The deep-sea community lost two of its finest yesterday when a helicopter carrying Andrew Wight and Mike deGruy crashed shortly after takeoff. Wight was the owner and pilot of the Robinson R-44 helicopter. Both men were world-renowned documentary filmmakers specializing in ocean exploration and conservation.

From left: Mike deGruy, Andrew Wight and James Cameron. Photo: Brook Rushton

Wight was piloting the Robinson R-44 helicopter as it took off from an airstrip in Jasper’s Brush, near Nowra, 80 miles south of Sydney, New South Wales police said in a statement.

Andrew Wight, 52, was the documentary-producing partner of explorer-filmmaker James Cameron. After leading six deep ocean expeditions together, from which the films Ghosts of the Abyss, Aliens of the Deep, Expedition: Bismarck, and Last Mysteries of Titanic were made, the two recently co-produced Andrew’s first feature film, Sanctum 3D.

Mike deGruy, 60, spent 30 years producing and directing documentary films about the ocean. An accomplished diver and sub pilot who spent many hours filming deep beneath the sea, he was the director of undersea photography for Cameron’s Last Mysteries of the Titanic.

Andrew Wight. Photo: Brook Rushton
Mike deGruy viewing the 3D underwater camera rig. Photo: Brook Rushton


Reacting to the deaths of his colleagues today, Cameron said, “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 died doing exactly what they loved most, heading out to sea on a new and personally challenging expedition, having fun in the way they defined it for themselves, which was hardship and toil to achieve something never done before. 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 added, “Andrew was kind and loyal, full of life and a sense of fun, and above all, a careful planner who stressed safety to everyone on his team every single day. It is cruelly ironic that he died flying a helicopter, which was second nature to him, like driving a car would be to most people.”

DeGruy, he said, was “one of the ocean’s warriors. A man who spoke for the wonders of the sea as a biologist, filmmaker, and submersible pilot, and who spoke against those who would destroy the sea’s web of life. He was a warm, funny, extremely capable man and one of the world’s top underwater cinematographers. His passion for exploration and for the wonders beneath the sea was boundless.”

“We are grieving over the loss of these two extraordinary friends,” said Tim Kelly, president of the National Geographic Society. “Andrew and Mike were part of our extended family at National Geographic, and our hearts, prayers, and thoughts go out to their loved ones. They accomplished so much, but were taken too early, and our world is greatly diminished by their leaving it.”

An Australian Adventurer of the Year medal winner and Emmy nominee, Wight produced over 45 films since 1989, including television documentaries, live television specials, and 3D Imax films. His journey to becoming a filmmaker began in agricultural science, working in scientific research and marketing. He was a respected SCUBA and cave diving instructor, commercial helicopter and fixed-wing pilot, and cattle farmer. Wight was recently announced as the general manager of the Australian office of CAMERON | PACE Group, where he was responsible for providing 3D cameras and production technology to Australian films and television.

Mike deGruy was an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and television host specializing in natural history and underwater programming in a career that spanned the world’s oceans and more than 30 years. His work as cinematographer, producer and host for such projects as Life in the Freezer, Trials of Life, Blue Planet, and Last Mysteries of the Titanic won multiple awards and reached global audiences with his infectious love for the oceans and the spirit of adventure. DeGruy founded the Santa Barbara, California-based production company The Film Crew Inc. in 1979.

DeGruy is survived by his wife, Mimi, his son, Max, and his daughter, Frances. Wight is survived by his wife, Monica, and his son, Ted.

Mike deGruy shooting 3D in Sydney Harbour. Photo: Brook Rushton
Andrew Wight and the "Mermaid Sapphire". This is the last photograph taken of Wight. Photo: Brook Rushton


Video Tribute: Remembering Mike deGruy and Andrew Wight, Extraordinary Explorers/Filmmakers

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • […] Mike deGruy and Andrew Wight: 'Celebrated Filmmakers Killed in Australian Helicopter Crash' at Celebrated Filmmakers Killed in Australian Helicopter Crash – News Watch, assessed 05/02/2012 at 4.30 pm, […]

  • […] Mike deGruy and Andrew Wight: 'Celebrated Filmmakers Killed in Australian Helicopter Crash' at Celebrated Filmmakers Killed in Australian Helicopter Crash – News Watch, assessed 05/02/2012 at 4.30 pm, (GMT+09:30). I have also posted the above on the thread I started […]

  • Annie Pais

    dear heaven- after reeling from the loss of our dear friend, Wes Skiles; we were delighted to meet Andrew Wight about a year ago-when he came from Australia to north Florida- to unite the immense cave diving community here for a few days. He brought ‘Sanctum’ for a pre release and offered it as a fundraiser for our project, The Blue Path, an effort to build awareness about the imperiled Florida Springs.
    Even better- he brought the ‘pitch footage’ he and Wes, and Cameron filmed in 3D in our Ginnie Springs. We showed it to a packed audience of divers- who supplied bawdy comments throughout! Andrew was forthright about our Florida water crisis, he encouraged us to be much more dramatic in our work yet he was funny and opening friendly- he helped us celebrate Wes with hair raising stories and made us smile for the first time since loosing our pioneer! He also shared with us the great need to get home to Australia for the imminent birth of his son-
    Andrew generously offered his assistance with our current effort to travel a Blue Path exhibit and programming around Florida as we craft a grassroots Florida Water Ethic-
    I can not believe this terrible news. Its too much-we grieve for his wife and baby son.
    Annie Pais
    Director, Florida’s Eden

  • […] any deep-sea programs over the past years, chances are one, or both had quite a lot to do with it.… Thanks for the programs lads. RIP. You're just jealous because the voices in your head are […]

  • Vicky James

    I’m SO sorry for the loss of your colleagues Mike and Andrew.
    Though I didn’t really know much about Andrew, I’m sure I watched and enjoyed many of his productions. An obviously talented man in many, many ways.
    Mike, on the other hand, I knew by name, and always looked forward to watching, as he went to places I could only dream of… one of those people who always made learning about new things even more fun with his wit, humor, and exuberance for what he was doing.
    This is a loss that will affect all who loyally watch NatGeo, and appreciated the work of these two men… there’s a special spot in heaven for people like them. 🙁

  • Gary Crosby

    My God,

    An ” Angel” has fallen to earth.
    This was and still is; in GODS Kingdom a very good man and father. To me, me and my five year old son son have sat and watched this man with his many talents of the sea; simply amaszed us.
    He has absolutely captivated us, this was by total surprise
    also,each time
    Day by day,night by night our souls were touched by him;at the
    sametime, educating our most precious gifts,our children
    As they both leave behind a wife.a child,a family and fans in
    mamoth proportions.In the stillness and deepness of our
    hearts, an “Angel” has fallen…
    My Son Dillon Ray Crosby and Daddy

  • Yolanda R Patterson

    They are now in the biggest adventure ever, the unknown that we all one day will experience. To the their families, May memories keep you strong and time will heal your wounds.

  • Bob Pope

    Want to extend my deepest sympathy to NATGO for the lose of two dedicated professionals.

  • ahmed

    i am vrey soryy

  • Kat Fincel

    What a tragic loss! My heart goes out to their families and colleagues. I have seen every documentary both have made. Their contributions to the scientific community as well as the film industry are priceless and will be cherished. They will be missed.

  • Annie

    A giant loss to the world of natural history filmmaking. These two are legends and are already dearly, dearly missed. My heart goes out to their families, Andrew’s 9 month old child and beautiful wife, and Mikes son and daughter and also beautiful wife. This is a tragic event and will go down in history. Lost them both decades too soon…. Much love to the families and friends and admirers.

  • […] was “one of the ocean’s warriors,” said James Cameron. “A man who spoke for the wonders of the sea as a biologist, filmmaker, and submersible […]

  • Hal Steadman

    A tragic tragic lost. Our condolences go out to both families.
    We will always be thankful to both of these talented men
    for the film-making gifts they created for us.
    .From just one of the millions who loved and was in awe of their work.

  • Tony Hammer

    Nothing can express the sadness I feel. Big shoes that will surely be hard to fill. My condolences!

  • Beverly Lougher

    My prayers for the families of these two talented men. I have enjoyed National Georgraphic programs and pictures all my life. This is a tragic loss to all of us.

  • […] pair were believed to have been working together on a documentary about Papua New Guinea.Celebrated Filmmakers Killed in Australian Helicopter Crash [National Geographic via a tweet by Walter Pickel] Bookmark/Share this Article Leave a […]

  • Francis Waithaka

    Only good p’ple goes, i am a lover of Natgeo programs. I deeply sympathise with the families of our great friends, may the Almighty wipe their tears n restore them with His peace. They may have gone but we still see them day by day.

  • spencer

    Mike was one of the best men I have ever met. He is one of the rare people who have good hearts. He will be missed and I am sending my love to his family

  • Rakhshan

    I really pay tribute to these celebrated Film Makers.

  • Jo Moss

    Such a sad loss. Mike you were my diving hero. I learnt so much from you. Thinking of all the people you’ve left behind. Rest in peace

  • jim stetson

    For their families; It is impossible to measure what Mike and Andrew accomplished. For so many of us who feel powerless as we watch the oceans and it’s inhabiters struggle against what was thought to be inevitable, they brought hope. They gave so genourosly to so many who cannot speak and to others who now feel we must. My heart goes out to the families of two men who dedicated their lives and gave the world a chance to use what they produced to help save the wonder and miracle of what we were given. They lifted the spirits and truly nourished the souls of so many of us who are now convinced that the inevitable is not.

  • sea farrer

    I am sorry for the loss of both men. As great men, they were brave, took risks, and lived great lives, of which we can now tell stories about. I feel that their wish would be that you who is reading this, go out, be brave and thankful for the oceans, and make your own stories and films. That will be the best living tribute you could ever show them.

  • Daniel Berghoff

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your colleagues Mike and Andrew.
    Their contributions to humanity is immeasurable, and nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said can pay them their due tribute. May they Rest In Peace in a better place in Heaven, knowing that they did such great deeds to make earth a better place to live. I feel for Mr. Cameron, whose visionary soul knows more than most of us that their loss can never be replaced.

  • […] and cinematographer Mike deGruy died with colleague Andrew Wight in a helicopter crash in Australia February 4, 2012, while working on a documentary. These videos were put together in […]

  • don

    Please unsubscribe me to this sight

  • Winky Hornabrook

    Life sometimes sucks big time. Two amazing blokes taken way too soon. I was at school with Wighty and lived in same farming area. He was always good fun and a bloody good listener if needed. Our school reunions will never be the same again, my thoughts to all who loved him.

  • […] and explorers Andrew Wight and Mike deGruy, were killed in a helicopter crash in Australia (Link to NatGeo News Watch story). The team will honor their memory by moving forward with the expedition as a tribute to them and […]

  • Praveen

    I was always in awe of under sea divers and cave divers. The footage in Planet Earth and Blue Planet were amazing. The work of documentary filmmakers is extremely hard and could be back breaking. They have to work under extremely difficult conditions and I also reailse it can be life threatening and scary. The untimely death of Andrew and Mike is a great loss for all of us. May God bless them and give the courage to their family to bear with the loss.

  • Terry Roberts

    We are so saddened to hear about the tragic loss of Andrew and Mike. We did not have the pleasure of knowing Mike. Andrew was a good friend to us. We first met Andrew at a diving festival on Heron Island. Very quickly we became long time friends. It came as such a shock to us both as we had only just recieved an email from Andrew a couple of days before the accident. Andrew had kept in touch with us and was one day hoping to visit and stay with us at Islandreams Vanuatu. The last time we were with Andrew was in a studio in Los Angeles, he gave his time freely in his busy and exciting life to share some of his talent. Andrew will be sadly missed by so many people, we wish you a safe accent to meet up with another friend and adventurer, our dear Daddy Ralph B White. I can see you on new adventures together, our wonderfull friends. We will miss you and be forever gratefull to you both for enrichening our lives. We will never forget you and you will forever remain in our hearts,.with love.
    Our sincerest condolences to your families. Terry and Charmaine Roberts. Vanuatu.

  • Tara Rose

    My dad is a Marine Biologist who worked along side Mike deGruy who was also a close family friend. Though at the time I was to young to remember him personally except for a few blurry memories I grieve his death and pray for his family. It is always sad when the ocean loses one of her protectors, though we can begin to be comforted knowing he died in pursuing his passion. My heart goes out to all who knew him and his family that remains. We will miss you.

  • […] загинаха в катастрофа с хеликоптер в Австралия. (… Екипът почете паметта им, като изтегли по-рано […]

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