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Undersea documentarian Mike deGruy dies in crash

- Associated Press - Sunday, February 5, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Mike deGruy, an award-winning cinematographer who spent three decades making documentary films about the ocean, was killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Australia. He was 60.

His employer, National Geographic, said Sunday that deGruy and Australian television writer-producer Andrew Wight died Saturday.

Their helicopter crashed soon after takeoff from an airstrip near Nowra, 97 miles north of Sydney, police said. Australia's ABC News reported that Wight was piloting the copter when it crashed.

DeGruy won multiple Emmy and British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or BAFTA, awards for cinematography.

An accomplished diver and submersible pilot, the Santa Barbara resident was the director of undersea photography for James Cameron's 2005 documentary "Last Mysteries of the Titanic."

"Mike and Andrew were like family to me," Cameron said in a joint statement with National Geographic. "They were my deep-sea brothers and both were true explorers who did extraordinary things and went places no human being has been."

After spending three years at the University of Hawaii in a Marine Biology Ph.D. program, DeGruy moved to the Marshall Islands, according to his website. He spent three years there, working as the manager of the Mid-Pacific Marine Lab, before transitioning to filmmaking.

DeGruy spent much of his early film career traveling the world, shooting for clients including the BBC, PBS and National Geographic, his website says. He later began producing and hosting the films.

David Bennett, president of Australia's South Coast Recreational Flying Club, said deGruy and Wight had set off to film a documentary when their helicopter crashed.

Wight, 52, of Melbourne, was the writer-producer of the 3D movie "Sanctum," which took in $100 million and was Australian cinema's biggest box office hit of 2010.

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