Top TV cameraman killed in stunt scene while filming BBC drama Black Earth Rising


A high profile cameraman was killed while filming a vehicle stunt for a BBC drama, an investigation has heard.A Land Rover derailed and struck Mark Milsome while filming on location in Ghana, West Africa, for the BBC and Netflix drama production Black Earth Rising.

In the scene, a four-by-four vehicle was supposed to go up a ramp before tipping over to the side – but the stunt went horribly wrong, the West London Coroner’s Court has learned.

Shocked crew members watched in horror as the vehicle crashed into the father of a 51-year-old child, the investigation found.

The audience was told that the Land Rover did not have a working speedometer and that people on set believed the driver was driving “at an uncomfortable speed”.

Mark Milsome (right) with daughter Alice (middle) and wife Andra (second from left)

It was also said that there was no safety briefing for the crew on site, with the stuntman and the arranger usually unknown to the crew.

Having a monitored camera near the waterfall also defied a risk assessment, it was said at the hearing.

Several cameras were used to film the photo but only one was occupied, the coroner learned.

Dean Byfield, an assistant director who worked on popular shows such as Holby City, Whitechapel and Line of Duty, was on the set at the time.

He told the inquest that it was “shocking and unexpected” for the car to pull out of its way towards Mr. Milsome.

Mr. Milsome with his daughter when she was younger

An investigation of Mr. Milsome’s devastated family

The maneuver, he said, was not what was expected during the stunt rehearsals.

Showing the Land Rover Defender’s direction on the ramp with two notebooks, Mr Byfield showed that the vehicle was supposed to approach a ramp at a side angle, causing it to roll.

But instead, he approached at an angle closer to the face and walked over the ramp.

He said, “He turned in the wrong direction. ”

Mr. Byfield said the Land Rover deviated from its intended course on the approach before returning to the correct course.

He was a veteran of the film industry and worked on high profile shows

Mr Byfield said: ‘On the road along the runway, some distance from the mound, it seemed to go a bit to the left and then adjusted to its center line but on the direct immediate approach of 30 yards. or 20 meters – it is difficult to measure the distances – it was then on the real course which had been repeated. ”

The assistant director was also asked about other aspects of the shoot, including how the decision was made to add a manned camera to the shoot.

Asked about having a camera piloted in the first place, he said: “Considering all the discussions we’ve had about the trajectory of the vehicle, the expected behavior of the vehicle, I didn’t find that strange.

“I didn’t think it was a bad decision or a bad direction. I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt that way and said something to someone. I didn’t feel uncomfortable with the proposal. I understand no one else felt it either. . ”

The cameraman with his wife Andra and his younger daughter Alice

He was questioned by Mr Milsome’s family attorney Adrian Waterman QC who revealed a number of potential issues including a lack of safety information and a broken speedometer.

He said, “So you have an unknown stunt arranger, an unknown pilot, you had in the event although you don’t know it, a broken speedo, you had the placement of a piloted camera unlike the risk assessment, yes – looking back do you think it would have been better if there had been a safety briefing and these things came up. ”

Mr Byflield replied, “If these things have come up, it is hindsight. I do not know sir.

He also said he was unaware that someone had been tasked with removing Mr. Milsome from the path.

The court also heard of an “unusual” delay caused by the arranger stunt having to meet the conductor before filming began.

Actor Richard Gere paid tribute to the cameraman

Mr Byfield explained how stunt arranger John Smith spent several minutes talking with the driver.

He said, “It took almost 10 minutes and for me – you talk to your team members and they know what they’re doing, so it was unusual.

“Unusual to the point that after several minutes Hugo Blick, our manager, came to me and asked me what was going on, so I radioed John who said” a few more minutes. ” ”

“I don’t know what they were talking about, but it took a while. “

Dame Judi Dench also paid tribute to Mr Milsome in a video wearing a t-shirt bearing his name

The inquest also heard tributes from Mr. Milsome’s wife, sister and father.

His sister Sarah Harrison said: “I could spend hours talking about Mark, telling you how talented, funny, intelligent, caring and loving he was, but if you had only met him for five minutes you would know. ”

She added that it “should be impossible” for a person to die in a “modern industry”.

“Even after three years, the shock of his death is still devastating. ”

Mark’s father Doug Milsome, an accomplished cinematographer who has worked with great directors including Stanley Kubrick, also spoke during the investigation.

He said: “Although my wife and I have had three very dark years, we haven’t yet reached a point where we can talk about Mark’s death without emotion getting the best of us.

“I’ve shot Bond movies and death-defying action sequences that are far more complex than the ones that killed my son.

“The standards of the crew and producers of professional stuntmen, those who make the key decisions, should never have allowed Mark to die that night – a fact.

The investigation is continuing.


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