A 29-year-old Chapman University cinematography student was killed in a dune buggy crash during a shoot with USC film students in Imperial County, authorities said.
The crash happened around 1 p.m. Friday in the Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area, where four people were traveling in a 2022 Can-Am Maverick UTV.
The vehicle was driving along the side of a sand dune when, “for reasons still under investigation, the Can-Am began overturning down the sand dune,” California Highway Patrol officials said in a news release.
The cinematographer was partially ejected from the vehicle and sustained fatal injuries as a result of the crash, CHP said.
The three other occupants, who are University of Southern California film students, survived the accident, according to Elizabeth Daley, dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
CHP Officer Arturo Platero told KTLA that everyone but the cinematographer were wearing safety harnesses when the vehicle crashed.
“I am deeply saddened to share that over the weekend a student from Chapman University who was serving as a cinematographer on a production with SCA students was killed in a vehicle accident,” Daley said in a statement.
“Our deepest sympathy is with the family members of the deceased student on this tragic loss,” Daley added. “We also send condolences to the Chapman University community.”
Stephen Galloway, dean of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University, identified the student killed to the Los Angeles Times as Peng Wang, a third-year graduate student from China.
“I’m absolutely heartbroken about this, like all of us at Chapman. This is an incredibly supportive and caring community, and we’ve all been devastated,” Galloway told KTLA. “Our hearts go out to Peng’s family, his girlfriend, and the USC students whose film he was working on as a volunteer when the tragedy happened.”
Galloway told the Times he was “outraged” that strict safety measures were not in place on the production.
USC’s Dean Daley said the school does not tolerate violations of safety protocols and that USC is still looking into what led up to the incident.
“Nothing is more important to the School of Cinematic Arts faculty and staff than student safety. The school has very strict safety policies that all students are trained in and expected to follow at all times,” Daley said in a statement. “These professional safety protocols are enforced from the first semester of the students’ experience and continue throughout the duration of their time at the school. The school does not tolerate violations of safety protocols. We are still gathering information about how this tragic accident occurred.”
CHP officials said impairment was not a factor in the crash, which remains under investigation.