American cinematographer Michael deGruy, 60, and Ausrtralian TV writer-producer Andrew Wight, 52, were killed when their helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff from an airstrip south of Sydney on Saturday, according to National Geographic. Police did not release the victims identities immediately. However, National Geographic and Oscar-winning director James Cameron confirmed their deaths in a statement released on Sunday.

DeGruy and Wight were long-time colleagues of Cameron. Wight co-produced the feature film “Sanctum 3D” with Cameron after accompanying him on six deep-ocean documentary expeditions.

DeGruy, an Emmy award winner with 30 years’ experience in ocean filmmaking, was director of undersea photography for Cameron’s “Last Mysteries of the Titanic.”

Reacting to the deaths of his colleagues , Cameron said, “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. They died doing exactly what they loved most, heading out to sea on a new and personally challenging expedition, having fun in the way they defined it for themselves, which was hardship and toil to achieve something never done before. They were passionate storytellers who lived by the explorer’s code of humor, empathy, optimism, and courage. Their deaths are a tremendous loss for the world of underwater exploration, conservation, and filmmaking.”