The stuntman who died in a helicopter crash during...


LOS ANGELES -- The stuntman who died in a helicopter crash during the filming of the CBS television series 'Airwolf' had snorted cocaine shortly before the fatal accident, the coroner's office said Friday.

Stuntman Reid Rondell, 22, was killed and the pilot of the helicopter, Scott Maher, 36, suffered serious injuries in the Jan. 18 crash near Newhall, Calif., about 25 miles north of Los Angeles.


Bill Gold, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner's office, said an autospy determined that Rondell died of massive burns suffered in the fiery crash.

Toxicological tests were taken and the results indicated the presence of cocaine, Gold said.

'In subsequent tests of his blood we found a small amount of cocaine,' Gold said. 'We're just saying some cocaine was detected consistent with cocaine inhalation.'

Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board and the California state division of Occupation Safety and Health were unaware of the toxicological results before being notified by UPI.


Don Belisarius, who co-produces the show with Universal Television, also said he was unaware of the report and could not comment. Universal spokesman Ben Helpern also said he could not comment on the report.

Alan Crawford, an investigator for the NTSB, said he would include the coroner's information in his still unwritten report on the crash, but doubted it contributed to the cause.

Crawford said there was no evidence Maher had taken drugs before the accident.

'We don't have any evidence of that,' Crawford said. 'I don't see this information as having a direct impact on the cause of the crash.'

Ed Grimes, district supervisor for Cal-OSHA, said his office had turned up no evidence that drugs were used before or during the crash.

'At the present time we have not discovered the use of drugs or that the use of drugs was related to the accident,' he said.

Gold said toxicologists could not determine how long the cocaine was in Rondell's bloodstream, but it was ingested some time prior to the flight. He said the amount of cocaine detected in the blood was .02 micrograms per milliliter.

'We can't say that he's got a habit, we don't know,' Gold said. 'This may be the guy's one and only.'


Gold could not say if the cocaine may have impaired the stuntman's ability to save himself.

Rondell, of Los Angeles, died in the fire that engulfed the 57-foot Bell helicopter three minutes after it crashed.

Pulled from the wreckage by witnesses, Maher suffered facial cuts, a broken right ankle, a broken left clavicle and a spine injury.

Rondell was a stunt double for actor Jan-Michael Vincent who stars in the series with Ernest Borgnine.

The crash occurred when two helicopters were chasing each other through the hilly valley in a situation described as a 'routine stunt.'

The crash occurred a few miles from the area where actor Vic Morrow, 53, and two children died in a helicopter crash during the filming of the movie 'Twilight Zone.'

Two other crew members from the 'Airwolf' show were injured in Indian Dunes, in February. Desiree Kerns, 28, and Carol Randall, 18, were in a four wheel drive vehicle when an explosive device attached to the front bumper blew up and the women were burned.

Latest Headlines