“Many incidents go unreported because crew members sign non-disclosure agreements and fear being blacklisted if they file lawsuits. Record-keeping is further muddled by the fact that many of the shows are nonunion, and workers are often classified as independent contractors. OSHA typically tracks only serious accidents involving employees and has no jurisdiction if the incident occurs in a foreign country such as Guyana.”
- In February 2013, a photographer working on a Discovery Channel show called “Dangerous Flights” died in a plane crash while filming aerial footage in Kenya. The pilot of the plane also died. John Driftmier, 30, was an experienced reality show cameraman; he’d previously worked on Discovery’s “Highway Thru Hell” and “License to Drill.” Driftmier’s father-in-law told the Calgary Sun that the crash came after Driftmier hired a sightseeing plane to get additional shots of the route featured in the series.
- That same month, cast member Michael Donatelli, cameraman Darren Rydstrom and pilot David Gibbi were killed in a helicopter crash for an unnamed Discovery Channel show. The military-themed show was shooting at a ranch in Los Angeles County. Donatelli’s family sued the Discovery Channel last summer, accusing the network of cutting corners with safety measures to save money, Deadline reported.
- Lars Andrews, a reality show consultant, told the Times about an incident in 2010 involving a crew member working on an unidentified program. A snake bit him during the last shot of the day in the Venezuelan jungle, and he went into shock despite treatment from a paramedic, who had an antivenom on hand, Andrews said. The crew couldn’t evacuate him for further treatment because of the time of day, and he died.
- Executive producer Monica Martino was seriously injured while filming the History Channel series “Bamazon.” The show follows construction crews mining for gold in Guyana. Martino told the Times that she was thrown from a boat when its captain — blind in one eye — lost control on a sharp turn. She was knocked out, but it gets worse: As the crew brought Martino back to the base camp, the boat hit a tree, leaving her with a bruised rib, torn shoulder and a concussion. Martino said the production company had no emergency evacuation plan for crew members, so she waited nearly 20 hours to receive medical care.
- Terri Flanell died in 2012 during filming for the Discovery Channel’s “Brothers in Arms” pilot. Flanell and her husband, Mel Bernstein, owned a gun range in Colorado and were filming a scene involving smoke bombs. Somehow, the crew lost control of the devices and they flew like rockets into Flanell’s body. Bernstein later sued Discovery for wrongful death and for “negligence in using, or authorizing the use of, pyrotechnic devices.”