HOLLYWOOD -- Actor Vic Morrow and two Vietnamese child actors - possibly working illegally -- were killed Friday by the blades of a helicopter during the filming of a Steven Spielberg movie based on 'The Twilight Zone' TV show.
Morrow, 50, who gained fame in the 1960s as an infantryman in the World War II TV series 'Combat,' and Renee Shinn Chenn, 6, and My-ca Dinh Lee, 7, were decapitated by the rotor blades of a crashing chartered Bell 205 military-type helicopter in a scene depicting a Vietnam War aerial attack.
Six people aboard the helicopter were slightly injured.
Witnesses said Morrow, with the children in his arms, was running across open ground mined with explosive charges to simulate machinegun fire when clods of dirt and rocks flew into the helicopter blades, disabling it.
More than a hundred movie extras and production assistants making the film based on the old television series watched in horror as the chopper plummeted and caught Morrow and the children in the main rotor blade. The chopper crashed into a river bed.
Mike Corbett, a lighting technician who saw the accident, said a gasoline fire bomb blew off the back rotor of the helicopter, sending it out of control.
The Spielberg production was being filmed at 2:30 a.m. PDT in a mock Vietnamese village built in rural Indian Dunes Park, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles near the community of Saugus and Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park.
Francis Bacon, a senior deputy labor commissioner in the State Department of Industrial Relations, told UPI that two investigators were en route to the scene. He said the child actors were probably working illegally when the accident occurred.
Bacon said state labor law permits child actors under the age of 16, but 'not at those hours.'
'If in fact they were 6 and 7, probably the latest they would be able to work would be 7 o'clock in the evening,' he said.
Bacon said there was no indication the producers had sought an exemption from the regulation. He said penalties for breaking the hour regulation would be a fine totaling $5,000.
Neither Warner Bros. nor Spielberg's office would comment on the official's remarks.
'We're investigating the circumstances,' a Warner Bros. spokesman said.
Director John Landis, who directed 'Animal House,' and was reported in shock. Five members of the Warner Bros. crew and pilot Dorcey Wingo, 35, were slightly injured in the crash and were treated and released from a nearby hospital.
Landis was only one of three directors involved in 'Twilight Zone.' Spielberg and Joe Dante were also scheduled to direct half-hour segments of the feature film due for release in theaters this Christmas.
Morrow, who co-starred with Rick Jason in 'Combat' from 1962-67 was a veteran of more than a dozen movies and scores of television shows. One of his most memorable roles was as the villainous manager of a Little League baseball team in 'The Bad News Bears.'
Morrow was a quiet, introspective man who kept a low profile. He never achieved major stardom but was considered a solid character actor whose forte was action pictures, often as the heavy.
He made his movie debut as a juvenile delinquent in 'The Blackboard Jungle' with Sidney Poitier in 1955, later playing key roles in 'God's Little Acre,' 'Cimarron,' 'Portrait of a Mobster' and the TV films 'Roots,' 'The Glass House' and 'The Captains and the Kings' among others.
A native of New York City, the stocky blond actor guest starred in such TV shows as 'Bonanza,' 'The New Breed,' 'The Untouchables' and 'The Rifleman.'
In 1966 he directed the movie 'Deathwatch' in which he had starred on Broadway, but it was the role of Army Platoon Sgt. Chip Saunders in 'Combat' that brought the actor his greatest fame.
Morrow began acting after a hitch in the Navy as a student at Florida Southern College, then moved to New York to study with Paul Mann's Actors' Workshop, supporting himself by driving a cab.