Discovery Sued Over Fatal Pyrotechnic Disaster on Reality TV Pilot

Discovery Communications Building - P 2011

Police cars are seen at the gate of the Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, on September 1, 2010. A gunman fired several shots and took at least one person hostage on September 1 at the Discovery Channel headquarters near Washington, media reports said, quoting police who feared the assailant might have a bomb. Local media reports quoted police as saying the man entered the lobby of the building and fired a weapon five or six times before declaring: "Nobody is going anywhere."

A disaster that caught the attention of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has prompted a wrongful-death lawsuit against Discovery Communications.

Last June, a film production crew was taping a pilot for a show that was to be called Brother in Arms. According to a lawsuit filed in Colorado federal court on Thursday, producers were filming the opening sequence of the show, where five individuals were going to walk through a cloud of smoke with weapons.

To pull this off, two pyrotechnic devices are said to have been used. The devices malfunctioned, shooting rockets toward the individuals -- hitting one, a woman named Terry Flanell, and killing her. Her family is now suing over the tragedy.

When the mishap occurred, there was a good amount of attention from authorities on what had happened.

According to one Colorado paper, the show focused on military vehicles from World War I and was being filmed at a shooting range called Dragonman's owned by Flanell and her husband, Melvin Bernstein. A local ABC affiliate reported then that the smoke bombs-turned-rockets were traveling at 150 mph, and after the accident occurred, Colorado police and federal investigators, including the ATF, showed up to investigate.

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Bernstein, who has told the press previously that he was missed by the rockets by inches, is now suing and blaming Discovery and Anthropic Productions for not using a licensed manufacturer of pyrotechnic devices, not obtaining permits from government authorities and not having qualified professionals to administer the stunt.

The lawsuit states, "At the time Terry Flanell was killed, Discovery violated § 12-28-102(5), C.R.S (2012), which provides in pertinent part that it shall be unlawful for any person to possess or discharge any fireworks, except permissible fireworks, anywhere in the State of Colorado."

Read the complaint.

Bernstein says he suffered grief, the impairment of the quality of his life, emotional distress and financial loss. He's suing for actual damages.

This isn't the first time this year that Discovery has been sued for wrongful death over an accident on a military-themed Discovery Channel reality TV series. Two weeks ago, the network was brought to court by the mother of a cameraman who was killed in a helicopter crash.

Discovery had no comment about the latest lawsuit.

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