Bond alumni Chris Corbould in court for 'Batman' stunt death
An Oscar-winning special effects supervisor failed to ensure the safety of a Batman stunt test in which a man filming the action died, a court heard - reports GetSurrey
Christopher Corbould, 53, from Bookham was practising an effect he would use on the âBatmobileâ of sending a car flying through the air before flipping it over, when the tragic death of technician Conway Wickliffe happened, Guildford Crown Court heard.
Corbould, who has co-ordinated stunts in 11 James Bond films and countless other Hollywood blockbusters, went on trial at Guildford Crown Court on Monday, one week after he won an Oscar for his work in Inception.
He was also nominated for his effects in The Dark Knight, but it was when working on these at the former QinetiQ site in Chertsey that the accident happened on September 24, 2007, the court heard.
Mr Wickliffe, a 41-year-old father-of-two from New Zealand, was riding in a pick-up truck alongside an American police car without an engine, being used to replicate the Batmobile.
Prosecutor Pascal Bates said he died in a Nissan Navara, borrowed from a member of the crew, after it veered off the test track and hit trees.
âMr Corbould was the person, we say, who failed to conduct his undertakings to ensure the deceased was not exposed to safety risk,â he said.
As the flip-stunt would be likely to damage the batmobile beyond repair, the team wanted to test it so they did so at the tarmac and gravel area, which jurors were shown a map of.
âThe first thing you may notice about the test area is itâs almost completely encircled by trees,â Mr Bates said.
He detailed nitrogen gas containers, forklift trucks and camera tripods that were part of the stunt, as well as the 4x4 planned to drive alongside and film the police car before slowing and going down a run-off track.
âWhat in fact happened was the Nissan failed to make that turn,â Mr Bates said. âIt went through rather than around the trees. The passage through the trees resulted in the death.â
Jurors saw a video of the Nissanâs route, including a pothole which may have affected its steering, it was alleged.
Mr Bates said: âThere should have been more thorough management of the risks.â
The prosecutor also alleged Mr Wickliffe was leaning out of the truckâs back window while filming, a claim disputed, and he called the risk assessment carried out before the test âmiserableâ.
âThere is no consideration of risk at filming points and those manning them, no mention of a second camera car, of the risk of the vehicles colliding generally or to the driver or cameraman in the camera car,â Mr Bates said.
âWas the site safe and suitable? [The camera car] needed to take a sharp-left turn. There is a list of questions which, if you are planning this carefully, you could have asked yourself.
âMr Corbould may not have been aware [Mr Wickliffe] was not wearing a seatbelt or leaning out a window. Why? Was he not paying attention?â
âIt was Mr Corbouldâs responsibility to control these risks. Nothing seems to have been thought through. The crew muddled through on the day.â
Corbould was apparently unaware of new HSE guidance for safe filming, which would have left him in a âbetter position to conduct a risk assessmentâ, the court heard.
Defending Corbould was Neil Fitzgibbon. He and Robert Terry, manager at the site, agreed it was a well-used area for such tests.
âYou have never had any concerns about whatâs going on?â Mr Fitzgibbon asked the witness.
âNo,â he replied.
Ian Lowe has worked in the film industry alongside Corbould for around a decade, including on the tragic test, and he said it had been planned over a long period.
Mr Lowe said: âI have worked with lots of supervisors and he is one of the safest.â
Corbould, of Woodlands Road, denies failing to plan, conduct and supervise a filmed special effects test, in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable that persons not in his employment who might be affected thereby were not thereby exposed to risks to their safety.
The trial continues.
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