Movie News

Stuntman Harry O'Connor dies during aerial stunts for TRIPLE X, Now with added info

Published at: April 7, 2002, 3:36 p.m. CST by staff

Father Geek here with some tragic news from the set of "XXX"...

Harry O'Connor, A well known California Skydiver and Stuntman, died while performing a stunt for the new Vin Diesel action film "XXX" in Prague, Czech Republic on April 4th. A retired former Navy SEAL he was currently enjoying his second profession as a Movie and Television Aerial / Stunt Coordinator. He had an extensive background and experience in the film and television industry including serving as the aerial skydiving coordinator for the CHARLIE'S ANGELS motion picture as well as performing stunts on THE PERFECT STORM and 1998's SOLDIER. Skydiving and flying had been his passions all Harry's life. He also loved backyard astronomy and captured many beautiful images digitally from his homebased observetory. He loved to share these images with anyone interested thru his website: SEAL Astronomy STUNTS He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Details from the the Czech News: Click Here To View Their Coverage

PRAGUE, April 4 (CTK) - U.S. stuntman Harry O'Connor, 45, died today shortly after midday during the making of an American action film, "XXX" in Prague, Iva Knolova of the Prague police said.

"He was being pulled at high speed on a paraglider and hit a pillar of the Palacky bridge. He died on the spot due to heavy injuries," Knolova said. The "XXX" production immediately imposed an embargo on any information for the media. Not even anybody from the stuntmen agency Filmka, cooperating with the film makers, could tell CTK anything.

"I cannot comment without the permission of the Stillking Films," Filmka chief Ladislav Lahoda told CTK today, confirming only that one of the U.S. stuntmen died. Stillking Films refused to make any comment either.

The police are now investigating whether the accident was caused by a technical shortcoming, or the breaching security rules imposed by the government on film crews.

"XXX" is being produced by U.S. Director Rob Cohen, and is mainly being made in the Czech Republic. The main castmembers include Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson, the latter fairly well known here from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown movies.

According to previous information made available to our paper, the script ought to tell a story of a professional sportsman in extreme sports who becomes a government intelligence agent. He, Diesel, has the task to destroy a Russian mafia gang. The Stillking Films company is one of the seven most significant film producers taking part in making foreign films in the Czech Republic.

Father Geek again with some disturbing additional info that was just sent in to me here at Geek Headquarters in Austin, Texas...

There were signs that something like this could happen on the set of XXX. Check out The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2002, Page R12. There's an article called "The Director's Cut," by Bruce Orwall, interviewing Rob Cohen about the DVD for "The Fast & The Furious;" the second to last paragraph tells about how Cohen was already planning the DVD for XXX, being trailed everywhere by a digital cameraman/documentarian, and it reads:

"This time, he wants to be even bolder in capturing moments of drama on the set, especially the crew's reaction to the film's progressively more daring stunts. "I want to capture the night when [a stunt man] couldn't do it, when he was too afraid to do it," he says."

What happens to the career of a stuntman like O'Connor if he's documented on a DVD saying 'no' to his director? I'm very curious if this played a factor in this fatality. By the sounds of it, Cohen should be ashamed of himself.

"Alvin Fernald"

Here's a request from the family, as well as a thank you for your kind thoughts...

On behalf of the family I would like to thank you all for your kind words and concern. My uncle would also appreciate them. This is a tradgedy for our family and we would like to ask everyone out there to please not support anyone who trys to sensationalize this tradgedy.

Undoutably someone will come up with a tape and try to profit from releasing it on the net. So please do not support any site that shows the footage.

Thank You, O'Connor Family

Father Geek back once more. I received this note in my E-mail

The whole skydiving community sends out love and prayers to the family of Harry O'Connor... Blue skies forever...

The entire forum crew of www.dropzone.com

Readers Talkback

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  • April 7, 2002, 3:57 p.m. CST

    sorry to hear about this

    by BYOBkenobi

    didnt know who he was but im sorry he died...

  • April 7, 2002, 4:18 p.m. CST

    All new Fox TV special: "When Stunts Cross The Line"

    by CoolDan989

    I think that some directors will do anything to get some kick-ass action in their movies, but they only realize they've gone too far when something like this happens. But it's not like this only happened on the set of Triple X...did you guys hear about 2 major mishaps on the set? The first was when a stuntman performed the stunt of crashing through a brick wall (which may or may not have been real), then avoiding the second one (which may be in the trailer). But the stuntman ended up crashing through both walls and got seriously hurt. And also, a giant prop being lifted by a crane took out a crew member and killed him. It was so bad the widow sued. I think the next time we watch an action movie, we should take just a second to think about how much risk filmmakers have taken to create the stunts that make our jaws drop.

  • April 7, 2002, 4:19 p.m. CST

    Correction

    by CoolDan989

    The two mishaps I described were from the Spiderman movie set. Sorry I didn't make it clear.

  • April 7, 2002, 4:49 p.m. CST

    Bullshit - People DO Care

    by Smilin'Jack Ruby

    Don't say people won't care about this guy. Every time something like this happens, first and foremost, his family and friends care. Then there's the whole fucking union. When stuff like this goes down, the union comes in and tries to figure out EXACTLY what happened and find where the shortcomings were. There's nothing important than to these guys than safety on a set and when something like this happens, it's a terrible tragedy. But people DO care and there are people who make it their life's work to make sure stuff like this NEVER happens again (though, of course, with rushed production, hurry-up's to meet a day's schedule, and the pressure of a shoot, this will inevitably happen again). Yeah, some times people get involved with stunts that they might have reservations about, but you've always got to remember the wisdom of Jean-Claude Van Damme. When Van Damme was the title character in "Predator," there was a big stunt coming up that he refused to do, saying it would break both is legs if he did it. He quit rather than do the scene. A gung-ho stuntman stepped in, did the scene, and snapped both his legs. People do care and it sucks when somebody dies on set. Hopefully, this will force somebody somewhere to change the rules on something and the next guy won't get hurt.

  • April 7, 2002, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Stuntmen

    by FargoUT

    It is sad, but you do have to realize that this is a major risk with being a stuntman. It's something they have to take into account when becoming a stunt man. There is always a risk of death when performing some of these stunts. Why do you think Jackie Chan's producers are so nervous all the time? If one of his stunts went awry and he died, how horrible would that be? Makes you wonder... is it worth dying to make a movie?

  • April 7, 2002, 5:53 p.m. CST

    And you think they'll respect stunt people from now on ?

    by Nonkel Bob

    In every interview and in ever movie special it's always : "Oh, but X did his/her own stunts, we had five stunt doubles but they were total klutzes, X just got up, leapt into action and pulled off an amazing stunt on the first shot, X was much better than all those dedicated athletes and professionals ..." Actors (except Jackie Chan and a those who are members of Stunt Unions) who claim they do dangerous stunts are bold-faced liars ! One actress even threatened to sue her own stunt double if she ever dared to say she did the stunts, fearing it would harm her career ! And about Jean-Claude Van Damme : I spoke to the guy who did stunts in Predator. He had to wear a special red suit so they could motion capture and isolate him from the background and put in the reflective SFX in. JC thought it was the actual suit for the movie and just walked out. That bit about Gung-Ho stuntmen is just uneducated self-perpetuating bullshit. Stuntpeople who behave like fools are removed from the set by the Stunt Coordinator.

  • Wow. I never thought I'd hear the words, "We have to remember the wisdom in the words of Jean Claude van Damme." But he's right. It's sick the lengths filmmakers expect people to go to to get their shitty 'visions' on the screen. There is inherent risk in the job, sure, but remember, while these guys are trying to make it safe for themselves, there's always a bunch of jerks standing around telling them to hurry it up. Anyway... may he rest in peace.

  • April 7, 2002, 6:25 p.m. CST

    allright...

    by DerBeppo

    Can't win with most of you guys. You rail against filmmakers going to outrageous lengths with stuntmen and live action stunts, then slam them again if they use cgi for seemingly impossible or overly dangerous sequences. Pick a side.

  • April 7, 2002, 9:16 p.m. CST

    'Its in [our] nature to destroy [ourselves]...

    by Dru

    Hey, we're a society bred on violence as entertainment. And when interest begins to flag, you've gotta raise the stakes. It is a tragedy that, every so often, a single person must bear the weight of our collective desire to push the envelope. But hey- I hope that I can be so lucky as to die doing something I love. Apologies if that came across as inappropriate. My prayers are with his wife + children. Out.

  • April 7, 2002, 9:18 p.m. CST

    Hey sugar-ray2, I'll tell you exactly what Diesel was doing

    by Basic Alias

    ...staying the hell out of the way of professional stuntmen as they tried to film something he was clearly untrained for! Dude, Vin Diesel's an actor, are you actually pissing on him because he wasn't involved in a stunt so dangerous it took the life of a former Navy SEAL? Man, there are some serious player-haters on this site. P.S. I just wanted to give my condolences to the stuntman's family, friends, and especially his co-workers. Working on a movie set is tough enough, I can only imagine what the morale is like there now.

  • April 7, 2002, 11:45 p.m. CST

    Thank you

    by LORDSAGAN

    On behalf of the family I would like to thank you all for your kind words and concern. My uncle would also appreciate them. This is a tradgedy for our family and we would like to ask everyone out there to please not support anyone who trys to sensationalize this tradgedy. Undoutably someone will come up with a tape and try to profit from releasing it on the net. So please do not support any site that shows the footage. Thank You, O'Connor Family

  • April 8, 2002, 12:05 p.m. CST

    It's a tragedy and all

    by durhay

    but while reading this I couldn't get the sound of Lee Majors singing "The Unknown Stuntman" out of my head. I feel like MTM in the "Chuckles the Clown" episode, except here it's not funny at all.

  • April 8, 2002, 12:39 p.m. CST

    Awful..

    by Lizzybeth

    They know the risks, but good grief.. that's terrible. I hope the family gets some compensation for this. It sounds like unnecessary risks were being taken.

  • April 8, 2002, 1:21 p.m. CST

    Anybody seen The Stuntman?

    by Merry Slander

    Centers around an incident similar to this. Peter O'Toole is an obsessive director. Steve Railsback is an escape con. Trying to dogde the police Railsback inadvertently messes us a stunt-in-progress and the stuntman is killed driving his car off a bridge. O'Toole's director needs to keep this under wraps to prevent his multi-million dollar film from dying on the vine. Railsback's ex-con doesn't want to go back tot he pokey. So, O'Toole has Railsback masquerade as the now dead stuntman, covering up the death completely. But as filming continues the stunts Railsback is asked to do get more and more dangerous, almost as if O'Toole is trying to get him killed. Andyway, If you haven't seen it its quite a good film. Well worth your while. The new special edition DVD is also outstanding. In closing, let me say how sorry I am for the family and friends of the fall-guy who lost his life on the XXX set. A terrible tragedy. MS out.

  • April 8, 2002, 3:13 p.m. CST

    Hollywood and Heartbreak

    by GoddessPrayer

    Sadly , I think we shall find "Player Haters" within any sphere of success. Whether it is inHollywild,Professional Sports, etc... What we find in the news of Harry O'connor's passing is that a professional who is well trained, prepared and fully aware of the risks of their profession, died on a job making a movie to entertain countless fans of action films and actor Vin Diesel. We sit wide eyed and full of anticipation as we get comfortable in our seats, munch popcorn and watch the play of fantasy begin within the darkened confines of theatre. For those brief moments our consciousness is transported into the storyline and we develop a "relationship" with those characters that play before us. We laugh, cry, cheer, we feel sincere emotion as the story moves forward. We are the audience that keeps Hollywood alive and they in turn keep us entertained. However when those theatre lights come back on and we return to our real lives, we often times fail to realize that in the course of filming our favorite thriller, many people risked their real life to make our favorite actor's seem like super~men and women. Harry O'connor was someones Son,Brother,Friend,Uncle. Today many people grieve the loss of a professional that assumed the risk of their own life just to make a living making a movie, to entertain the masses. Today a man is dead. A hero that, like his colleagues, remains in the shadows, lending their awesome talent to film projects that allow the Hollywood Spotlight to beam even more brilliantly on those famous actors we all know on site. So the next time you attend a movie with lots of drama and action, don't just applaud the famous talent on screen. Cheer and respect the talent that cared and dared to help make those moment possible. Goddess Bless and Keep Harry O'connors soul and lend comfort to those who grieve his loss. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and the cast and crew, as they work through this horrible loss.

  • April 9, 2002, 3:34 a.m. CST

    Renegade Set

    by stuntrocker

    that was a crazy stunt. When I sailed from LA to San Diego and went up to the parking lot at the marina I went up to a bloke on a motorbike and it was Lorenzo Lamas and they were filming a Renegade stunt. So I watched them get an old beater running and then haul ass and flip it while Renegade chased 'em. I'd never seen a stunt in person before and that's when I realized something really fundamental. No matter how simple the stunt. No one applauds until the stuntmen and/or women get out and hold up their hand to signal that they're OK. On that one day, for that stuntman, after the thumbs up, everyone cheered.

  • April 10, 2002, 1:48 a.m. CST

    Wonder if it would've happened if they were filming in the U

    by Smurfette

    Are the safety codes different there? I'd suppose they are.

  • April 13, 2010, 8:04 p.m. CST

    by ballen2008

    harry, we miss you we watched the movie like a thousand times on easter! uncle pete kept trying to pause it on ur face and he failed it took himm a few thousand tries to get it right we laughed so hard. we miss you very much and we will see you again one day love you