Studio citation expected in 'War' blast


A Downey fire official said a citation for at least one safety violation is sure to be issued in the aftermath of an explosion on the set of Universal's Tom Hanks starrer "Charlie Wilson's War" that critically injured a special effects assistant.

No safety officer was on the set at the time of the blast, which occurred Thursday at Downey Studios in the Los Angeles suburb. The explosion caused a 34-year-old man to suffer head and facial injuries.

"Principal photography (was) completed Wednesday, but the production was prepping for some additional insert shots," a Universal spokeswoman said. "No cast was on set, and only three special effects professionals were present at the time of the incident. We are cooperating with investigators and supporting all of the parties involved."

The special effects assistant was listed in critical condition after surgery Thursday at St. Francis Medical Center in nearby Lynwood. Fire officials deferred further updates on the victim to Universal, but a studio spokeswoman contacted Friday refused to identify the man or provide an update on his medical condition.

A fire safety officer is required when pyrotechnics are being used, but Moon said the production company had not notified the fire department that any work was being done Thursday.

"We did not know they would be testing anything on that day," Capt. Darren Moon said.

The absence of a prior notification "definitely" meant at least one citation for a violation would be issued, Moon said.

It has not been determined whether it would be Universal or some other entity that would be cited for the alleged violation, he added. Good Time Charlie Prods. and Playtone are producing the Mike Nichols-directed film.

"We're looking into all kinds of violations that might have occurred," Moon said. "We should have been notified, at a minimum."

"War," which also stars Julia Roberts, is based on a nonfiction book about a former congressman who helped fund the CIA's secret war against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

The accident occurred when a simulated stinger missile exploded, fire officials said.

The simulated missile was supposed to be launched at a helicopter during a stunt scheduled for Friday. Moon said he canceled the Friday shoot, though it could be rescheduled.

The precise cause of the accident was being investigated by the fire department and the state fire marshal's office.

In 2001, a welder building sets for the movie "Spider-Man" was killed in Downey when a crane toppled onto a construction basket in which he was riding.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.