Astin Named In Wrongful Death Suit

Sarah Palin signing sutographs during book tour stop in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, 12/6/09
The widow of a photographer killed in a helicopter crash while filming "The Final Season" is suing actor Sean Astin, the movie's producers and the pilot, among others.

Kathryn Schlotzhauer alleges that the June 30 crash in eastern Iowa could have been avoided if producers and others involved in the film had scouted the area and noted the power lines that brought the helicopter down.

Her husband — Roland Schlotzhauer, 50, of Lenexa, Kan. — was shooting a parade scene when the aircraft crashed into a cornfield, killing the photographer and seriously injuring producer Tony Wilson, 49, and the pilot.

Both survivors are among 19 defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit. The suit also names Wilson's special-effects firm, headquartered in Des Moines, and the rural electric cooperative that owns the power lines.

The widow is seeking unspecified compensation for the photographer's death, as well as $50,000 in punitive damages, said her attorney, Gary Robb.

The actor's publicist David Lust, in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Wednesday, said Astin, who starred in "The Lord of the Rings" films, was sued only because "he is the lead actor in the film."

"He had no involvement or connection with this incident before, during or after the accident," Lust said.

Messages left Wednesday night at Wilson's home and his firm were not immediately returned.

The suit alleges the fatal crash was the result of the defendants' "reckless" conduct. The victim's wife claims the pilot failed to control the chopper and flew too low during the filming.

"The Final Season" is about a high school baseball team. It stars Astin and Powers Boothe and is being directed by David Mickey Evans, who also directed "The Sandlot."

Crews wrapped up filming two days after the crash.