Peng Wang, a 29-year-old Chapman University student, has volunteered to help with a student film project for a mentoring course at USC as Director of Photography.
On April 15, Wang was at a Can-Am Maverick UTV with three USC film students at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area filming their short film in the desert when their car flipped over the top of the dunes. Wang, who was the only passenger without a seat belt, mortally wounded in the extension.
Wang family Seeking unspecified compensation in a wrongful death suit brought against the University of Southern California and two of its students. The family claims that the university approved the project and learned that the students would be using off-road vehicles in the desert, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday.
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“Safety must trump everything in student film projects completed in accordance with the requirements of the University of Southern California chapter,” the family members said in their invitation. “USC has a responsibility to return the people who make its films to their families intact. The University of Southern California is responsible for its negligent failure to exercise control over the final student film project and to ensure its safety. This negligence resulted [Wang’s] Death and subsequent compensation for which the plaintiffs file a lawsuit.”
However, USC officials denied responsibility for Wang’s death. Officials claimed that the students had gone rogue in making the short film and that the school was unaware of the approvals needed to use the off-road vehicles. USC also previously observed Shooting more than 50 miles from campus or using ATVs requires specific approvals that none of the students requested or obtained.
“USC was not responsible for Mr. Wang’s tragic death. We will share the facts about our robust safety procedures and court safety record,” the USC reportedly wrote in a statement.
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Wang’s family claims that the university approved a “student certificate” for the film, which was submitted on April 5. The approval included the location and budget for the film and the use of an off-road vehicle, according to the lawsuit.
“In other words, the location of the filming, and the students’ intentions regarding filming, were open and clear to the faculty and staff at USC who were responsible for approving the project,” Wang’s family wrote in their file.
The family also filed a lawsuit against two of the students Wang was working with: Biangliang Li and Ting Su. According to the lawsuit, UTV driver Lee lost control of the vehicle. They also claimed that Li and Su knew that Wang was not familiar with the equipment used for off-road travel.
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“An experienced driver, or one who has been properly trained, and is familiar with the dunes, would not have made this obvious mistake,” Wang’s family wrote. “This should have put Su and Li on high alert regarding [Wang’s] Unfamiliarity with the proper operation and safety protocols of [off-road vehicle]. “
Wang previously received a posthumous Master of Fine Arts degree from Chapman University. The cause of his death was listed as blunt trauma to the neck due to the accident. His remains were reportedly buried in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China.
“In life, there is no greater pain than this kind of bereavement. After our son is gone, we have to bear all the hurt, all the societal pressure and 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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Featured Image via the desert