Seatbelt Was Available, Usable
National Transportation Safety Board released its probable cause
report this week in the August 2004 crash of a Cessna 206 that went
down while filming an independent film, "Cross Bones."
According to the report, the lone fatality, cinematographer Neal
Fredericks, 35, drowned in 36 feet of water after impact because
other passengers could not free him -- as he had tied himself to
the seat with ropes, despite the seat having a fully functional
"The pilot and passengers were all able to exit the airplane
except the cameraman, who tied himself to the seat with a rope
prior to takeoff after the cargo door had been removed to
facilitate filming," said the report. "Attempts to free the
cameraman prior to the airplane sinking were unsuccessful, and he
As ANN reported, the Cessna
206 from which he was shooting suffered apparent engine trouble at
an altitude of about 500 feet. The aircraft quickly sank after
ditching, according to "Cross Bones" writer-director Daniel
Zirilli, who was also on board. He, along with a co-producer,
camera assistant and the pilot were able to escape the sinking
wreckage. Zirilli said Frederick was unable to free himself before
the airplane sank.
The crew was filming a fort on an island. As the aircraft
approached the area to be filmed, "the engine sputtered, and then
regained full power. A minute or two later, the pilot indicated the
engine lost all power, and after unsuccessfully trying to restart
it, he ditched the airplane," according to the report.
The pilot and assistant cameraman attempted to free Fredericks
as the plane was sinking about 70 miles west of Key West. The
assistant cameraman told investigators Fredericks, whose credits
include "The Blair Witch Project," said to him, "The rope," before
the plane submerged, according to the Associated Press. He had
reportedly tied the rope across his legs, around his waist and
seat, and around his camera.
The NTSB report listed as the cause of the accident, "A loss of
engine power for an undetermined reason during cruise flight, which
resulted in the pilot ditching the airplane in ocean waters."