Family of Chinese student who died in sand dune accident while working on film sues USC

The parents of a Chinese graduate student and cinematographer who died in a sand dune accident while working on a student film are suing the University of Southern California (USC) and two of its students.

Peng Wang, a 29-year-old student from Chapman University, volunteered to help with a student film project for a filmmaking course at USC as a cinematographer.

On April 15, Wang was in a Can-Am Maverick UTV with three USC film students at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area to shoot their short film in the desert when their vehicle rolled over the crest of a dune. . Wang, who was the only passenger without a seatbelt, suffered fatal injuries in the bearing.

Wang’s family is seek unspecified damages in a wrongful death lawsuit that was filed against USC and two of its students. The family alleges the university approved the project and knew the students would use all-terrain vehicles in the desert, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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“Safety should take precedence over all student film projects made in accordance with USC class requirements,” the family allegedly said in their complaint. “USC has a responsibility to return the people who make its films to their families intact. USC is responsible for its negligent failure to exercise control over the Finale student film project and ensure its safety. This negligence resulted in [Wang’s] the death and resulting damages for which the plaintiffs sue for damages. »

However, USC officials have denied responsibility for Wang’s death. Officials claimed the students went rogue while making the short and the school was unaware of the approvals needed to use all-terrain vehicles. USC too previously noted that shooting more than 50 miles from campus or involving all-terrain vehicles requires specific approvals, which none of the students had requested or obtained.

“USC is not responsible for Mr. Wang’s tragic death. We will share the facts about our strong security procedures and our security record in court,” USC reportedly wrote in a statement.

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Wang’s family says the university had approved a “student certification” for the film which was submitted on April 5. The approval included the film’s location and budget and the use of an all-terrain vehicle, according to the lawsuit.

“In other words, the location of the filming and the students’ intentions regarding the filming were open and obvious to USC faculty and staff who were responsible for approving the project,” Wang’s family wrote in their file.

The family also sued two of the students Wang worked with: Biangliang Li and Ting Su. Li, the UTV driver, lost control of the vehicle, according to the lawsuit. They also claimed that Li and Su knew that Wang was unfamiliar with equipment used for off-road travel.

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“An experienced, or properly trained, driver familiar with the dunes would not have made this obvious mistake,” Wang’s family wrote. “This should have put Su and Li on heightened alert regarding [Wang’s] lack of familiarity with proper operation and safety protocols for the [off-road vehicle].”

Wang previously earned a posthumous MFA from Chapman University. The cause of his death was listed as blunt force trauma to the neck from the accident. His body is believed to have been buried in Chengdu, in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

“There is no greater pain in life than this type of bereavement. After our son is gone, we have to endure all the injuries, all the social pressure and the pressure to take care of ourselves as we get older,” Wang’s father told the Los Angeles Daily News in June.

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Image selected via DesertUSA

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