Jump to content



  • Please log in to reply
27 replies to this topic

#1 Janice Arthur

Janice Arthur

    Advanced Member

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPip
  • 813 posts

Posted 22 April 2013 - 01:21 PM

Hi all;


Russ McEllhatton has agreed to talk about his accident.


As we suspected he's tired of sitting home recovering!!



  • 1

#2 Russell McElhatton

Russell McElhatton


  • Sustaining Members
  • 29 posts

Posted 24 April 2013 - 01:26 AM

Janice has asked me to post here about my recent on set accident.

Let me say right off that there are a number of things I cannot
talk about because of ongoing investigations.

On February 21st of this year I was working on NCIS LA my show for nearly four years.
I had spent the morning shooting a chase as a second unit and upon return from lunch
the full company would shoot the crash that ended the chase.

I was satisfied that I was in a safe position but when the van crashed into a metal
storage container as planned, it set the container in motion towards me, this was not the plan.
Things happened very fast and the container struck me sending me into another container behind me.

What went wrong with the gag will be analyzed endlessly by management, insurance companies
and workmans comp. So far to everyone's credit they have not engaged in finger pointing.
I have put it behind me as best as I can to focus on being well again.

I have no recollection of being struck or of several seconds before and after. My memory of
events is understandably jumbled but there were paramedics attending to me rapidly, I was able
to answer the requisite questions of name, date, place which the paramedics use to asses
brain injury correctly. My pain was off the charts and I was not given any pain meds until I
was well on my way to the hospital. This apparently is policy as they must contact the hospital
by radio/cell phone before they can administer narcotics.The ambulance ride was perhaps the most
excruciating part of the entire experience.

Once medicated I have no real sense of the order of events or any detail of what was happening to me.
Fortunately my wife was working on a set nearby and was at the hospital shortly after I arrived to
approve my treatment. I was taken to an excellent Trauma center and tended to by a fine surgeon and
staff that certainly set me up for recovery, perhaps saved my life.

The damage- 15 broken ribs
1 broken collarbone
1 broken scapula
cracked pelvis
lacerated liver
punctured lung
Two surgeries, Twenty six days in the hospital, little sleep, incredible pain.

The other damage- Totaled PRO sled
Badly damaged PRO arm
Totaled Alexa
Badly damaged Optimo

While in the hospital my care was excellent and nearly seamless. If a doctor ordered it I got it.
Upon leaving the Hospital however the Catch 22 aspect of the workmens comp system became clear.
It has proved very difficult to coordinate the various aspects of my care because of the nature of
the approval process. They operate on a very different time frame then we do.

I am two months on and working very hard to make a recovery. Lots of two steps forward
and one step back. Sleep is returning to normal but I still cannot sleep in a conventional
bed, pain is subsiding as well as the need for constant painkillers.

My hospital stay demonstrated how my families involvement ( I did not spend a night alone )
as well as an outpouring from coworkers, old friends and the Motion Picture/Steadicam community
have helped me maintain a positive attitude.
This accident has been better than social networking for connecting with old friends though
I do not recommend it. I have lost over 30 lbs but I don't recommend it for that either.

  • 4

#3 Wolfgang Troescher

Wolfgang Troescher

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 149 posts
  • Munich, Germany

Posted 24 April 2013 - 01:31 AM

Get well soon!
  • 0

#4 Dean Smollar

Dean Smollar

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 117 posts
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 24 April 2013 - 02:01 AM

We're happy to hear from you :)
  • 0

#5 Greg Cheng

Greg Cheng

    New Member

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 7 posts

Posted 24 April 2013 - 03:47 AM

It is great to hear you are alive with tons of support. Stay positive!
  • 0

#6 Victor Lazaro

Victor Lazaro

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 1231 posts
  • Sunnyside Queens, NY

Posted 24 April 2013 - 08:36 AM

Very happy to hear you're on the path to recovery. Thank you for sharing with us. Rest well and feel better. V.
  • 0

#7 Sanjay Sami

Sanjay Sami

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 429 posts
  • India

Posted 24 April 2013 - 08:47 AM

That is a very sobering story. 

Thank you for sharing it with this community and bringing forward the reality of how vulnerable you can really be on a film set.

And how quickly and unexpectedly things can go wrong.

I wish you the very best, and I hope your recovery is swift and complete.

Take care and stay strong.

Best wishes


  • 0

#8 Janice Arthur

Janice Arthur

    Advanced Member

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPip
  • 813 posts

Posted 24 April 2013 - 08:57 AM


Wow. Awful to hear about but so glad u are recovering

Have u considered hanging out your shingle as a Steadicam operator agent while u are on the mend?

A lot of ops would benefit from your vast knowledge of both the business and the on-set experience as a negiotator for them.

You also know LA production inside out!

Just an idea and I wish u only well .

  • 0

#9 Kevin Andrews SOC

Kevin Andrews SOC

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 348 posts
  • Denver CO

Posted 24 April 2013 - 10:14 AM

I can't believe the amount of injuries you sustained! Glad to hear you are recovering and hope all the medical follow up goes smooth. Also a fan of the show!

  • 0

#10 Lawrence Karman

Lawrence Karman

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 903 posts

Posted 24 April 2013 - 10:19 AM

That's a terrible story, Russ. My best wishes for a full recovery and hope to see you out on a set as the DP soon.

  • 0

#11 Brian Freesh

Brian Freesh

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 922 posts
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 24 April 2013 - 10:25 AM

Wow, Russ you're unbreakable!  All that damage and 2 months later you're out of the hospital and on the mend! Keep up the healing, best of luck with the medical.

  • 1

#12 Jens Piotrowski SOC

Jens Piotrowski SOC

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 1664 posts
  • Los Angeles, CA

Posted 24 April 2013 - 11:06 AM



All the best and a full recovery to you!!!



  • 0

#13 Rob Vuona SOC

Rob Vuona SOC

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 1143 posts
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 April 2013 - 11:24 AM

Sweet Jesus
I heard about the accident but didn't realized the extent of your injuries

Wow, happy your on the mend
I'll be your first client if you want to be my agent from your bed =}

Keep getting better

And thanks for sharing,
  • 0

#14 Robert Starling SOC

Robert Starling SOC

    Advanced Member

  • Sustaining Members
  • 1134 posts
  • Las Vegas, NV

Posted 24 April 2013 - 11:37 AM

What a terrible accident Russ and our best wishes to you for a speedy and full recovery.


This is a perfect albeit tragic example of how we all put ourselves out there potentially in harms way trusting that everyone else has done or will do their jobs as planned and 100% safely.


I'm out from a work injury right now as well where the stunt person was supposed to come out on fire and walking but instead he came out running. It pushed me to accelerate with a fairly heavy camera package from a basic backward walk into a backwards run and switch to a semi tracking / DJ position. My right knee collapsed and bam I hit the floor.  Fortunately the MRI came back fine and my knee is just badly sprained as far as we know, but I'm still not able to risk the stress of flying the rig on my knee for probably another month.


Production paid for repairs and replacement parts within ten days: New XCS Ultimate 2 LEH, delaminated monitor screen and a few other items and they have been very proactive to get me paid for lost equipment rental days as well which was the underlying motivation to get my gear whole again so quickly. Plus they are good people which helps.  But, it eventually comes down to insurers and lawyers.


As Russ has probably found out, Workers Comp is almost laughable. It took three weeks to get an okay for the MRI. The $114.68 per day WC pay (Max in Nevada) doesn't even cover my hourly rate. I'm a month into it and have still not received the first check. Thus the importance of having emergency savings funds set aside to use if needed which is directly tied to charging enough for jobs so that you can set aside a year or more savings to cover the accidents of life.  People who low-ball rates "just to get started" are doing themselves a disservice as much as they hurt the industry.


Charging proper rates and having COIs that cover GL, Equipment and Workers Comp is vital but that still doesn't make you whole again and in Russ's case he has a very long road to recovery.


My question to everyone is to ask yourself what would you do today if you could not work for 3, 6, 12 months or longer?  Could you live on $114.68 a day or whatever your local WCOMP max is?  If you can't dress yourself or take a shower without help can you afford to pay for that help?


The next time you take a job "for a friend" with no insurance or production pushes you into an awkward scene, stop and think about what would you do and how you would survive in Russ's situation.


Russ, something that has been invaluable to me has been my yoga practice. While limited at first and still, it helped me maintain my flexibility and is aiding in a quicker recovery to rebuild stability in my right knee.  That and riding my road bike on a stationary trainer were things I could do at home without a special PT appointment.


Get well Russ and please let me know if there is anything Jeanne and I can do to help or even just listen to pass the time.


All the best!



  • 0

#15 Michael Sanchez

Michael Sanchez


  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 10 posts
  • Littleton, CO

Posted 24 April 2013 - 01:18 PM



Thoughts and prayers for you and your family during this tough time and hope you have a speedy recovery from this incident.  Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us.


Take care and get well soon!



  • 0

Engineered Cinema Solutions

PLC - Bartech

Omnishot Systems

The Moses Pole - Steadicam Monopod

Boland Communications


Wireless Video Systems

GPI Pro Systems

Varizoom Follow Focus

Ritter Battery

PLC Electronics Solutions

Paralinx LLC

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

rebotnix Technologies

Betz Tools for Stabilizers