James Cameron's deep-sea collaborators killed in crash

Two experienced National Geographic filmmakers who collaborated with James Cameron on his deep-sea documentaries were killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Australia on Saturday.

Filmmakers deGruy, Wight teamed with Cameron on undersea documentaries

Screenwriter-producer Andrew Wight, left, and filmmaker James Cameron attend an event for the film Sanctum 3D in Hollywood in 2011. Cameron paid tribute to Wight and fellow colleague Mike DeGruy, who died in a helicopter crash on the weekend. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Two experienced filmmakers who had collaborated with James Cameron on his deep-sea documentaries were killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Australia on Saturday.

According to Australian police, a helicopter crashed soon after takeoff on Saturday, killing the two people on board.

On Sunday, National Geographic confirmed the identities of the two experts — award-winning American cinematographer and biologist Mike deGruy, 60, and Australian writer-producer, pilot and diver Andrew Wight, 52. In a statement, National Geographic noted that "the deep-sea community lost two of its finest."

Wight had been piloting the helicopter, a Robinson R-44 that he owned. The crash occurred near Nowra, located about 160 kilometres south of Sydney.

"Mike and Andrew were like family to me. They were my deep-sea brothers, and both were true explorers who did extraordinary things and went places no human being has been," Canadian-born Titanic director Cameron said in the National Geographic statement.

"They died doing exactly what they loved most, heading out to sea on a new and personally challenging expedition...They were passionate storytellers who lived by the explorer's code of humour, empathy, optimism, and courage. Their deaths are a tremendous loss for the world of underwater exploration, conservation and filmmaking."

Among the dozens of films he'd produced in the past two decades, Wight partnered with Cameron on documentaries such as Ghosts of the Abyss, Expedition: Bismarck and Last Mysteries of the Titanic. They also co-produced Wight's 2010 feature film debut Sanctum 3D, which was a box office smash in Australia.

DuGruy, a marine biologist, filmmaker, accomplished diver and submersible pilot, won multiple Emmy and British Academy of Film and Television Awards for his undersea films over the past three decades.

He also worked on Last Mysteries of the Titanic with Cameron, participated in the celebrated Blue Planet series and shot, produced and hosted deep-sea film productions for National Geographic, PBS and the BBC. In recent years, he also gained popularity as an event speaker and interviewer.

According to David Bennett, president of Australia's South Coast Recreational Flying Club, the pair had been heading out to film a documentary when they crashed on Saturday. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has assigned a team of investigators to the crash.

DeGruy is survived by his wife and two children. Wight is survived by his wife and his son.

With files from The Associated Press