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Accident at Downey Studios

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Special effects technician Chris Walkowiak was seriously injured on January 25 at Downey Studios when he was test-firing a mock stinger missile while working on Charlie Wilson’s War, according to the Downey fire department.The film is a Universal Pictures production. Other production companies listed as involved in the project include Good Time Charlie Productions and Playtone.Walkowiak, 34, remains hospitalized and in critical condition, though his situation has stabilized, said Downey police sergeant Leslie Murray. The Downey police, the city’s fire department and Al Adams, the California State Fire Marshall, all have separate investigations underway “to see whether any criminal behavior was involved, or whether there were code violations or permit violations,” she said.”At this point in time, there doesn’t appear anything criminal in nature, however there is still an ongoing investigation,” added Murray. The goal of the three probes is “to determine how the incident occurred and whether anything can be done to prevent a repetition,” she explained.Walkowiak, who has numerous credits as a special effects technician and special effects supervisor on films including Click, The Wedding Crashers, The Longest Yard and American Beauty, could not be reached.After the accident he was taken to Saint Francis Medical Center in Lynwood.The mishap took place at 2:24 p.m. in Building 290 on the lot of the Downey Studios, according to Downey fire captain Darren Moon. The accident occurred during a prep for a scene in the Mike Nichols-directed film, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, that was scheduled for shooting the following day, he added.”They were testing a simulated stinger missile that was supposed to have been shot from a helicopter,” Moon told KNBC Television. He said that the helicopter was inside the 50,000-square-foot building, a converted aircraft hangar, but the missile was being tested on a portable device.Universal, a unit of General Electric, put out a brief statement that said: “Principal photography on Charlie Wilson’s War was completed Wednesday but the production was prepping for some additional insert shots. No cast was on set and only three special effects professionals were present at the time of the incident. We are cooperating with investigators and supporting all of the parties involved.” Walkowiak was not mentioned by name, and a studio spokesperson said Universal would have no further comment on what happened or his condition.The film, which is about a Texas congressman and his secret wheeling and dealing with Afghanistan when the Soviets invaded in the late 1970s, is set to be released towards the end of 2007.

Written by Jack Egan

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