LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles colleagues expressed concern Tuesday for a group that failed to return from a camping trip in Namibia in southwest Africa while making a documentary on witchcraft.
Los Angeles publicist Sherri Spillane identified the missing as Los Angeles pilot Christopher Banninger; British-born businessman Mike Edson; Russian actor/former fighter Oleg Taktarov; South African athlete K.J. Lodge; and a sex therapist and radio host who goes by the name of Natasha Terry.
The five were brought by helicopter to a camping area on Friday and were supposed to be picked up the following day, said Spillane, ex-wife of crime writer Mickey Spillane.
Due to a “mis-communication,” the helicopter pilot did not arrive until Sunday, she said.
When the pilot did show up, he “found a note in a bag saying (the campers) were headed west toward the coast,” presumably on foot, Spillane said.
The pilot described the region as “the hottest area they could possibly go to,” she said.
It’s wintertime in Namibia, a hot, arid country with large tracts of desert. Conditions are warm during the day and cold at night.
Dana Cyccone, secretary to Edson, said the film crew had camped in a remote area near the Namibia-Angola border. She said she notified the U.S. embassy in Windhoek — the capital of Namibia — that the group had failed to return from the trip.
Two embassy officials contacted this morning by City News Service — press spokesman Stan Harsha and vice consul Aaron Daviet — said they had received no reports from family members that anyone was missing in Namibia.
“We’ve had no inquiries from the family, but the family is welcome to contact us,” Harsha said.
Cyccone said she later got in touch with Daviet, who sent her the names of three air charter companies in Namibia, which possibly could be used in the search.
Spillane said the witchcraft documentary project “had been going haywire” when the crew decided to go camping. At one point, the crew had been chased out of a village, she said.
“They were filming a tribe in one of the small areas there, and apparently one of the participants got very upset that they were there,” Spillane said. Villagers chased out the crew, “cursing them,” she said.
Spillane said the crew subsequently experienced a number of difficulties, including car trouble and getting stuck in an elevator at their hotel.
“Everybody had started to freak out,” said Spillane, who represents people who gained prominence on reality TV shows.
“I don’t know if they believe they were cursed, or so stressed out that they couldn’t stay there any longer,” she said.
Edson is producing the documentary, said Cyccone. Also involved in the project are the pilot, Banninger, and the therapist, Natasha Terry, who also uses the name Janina Valdez, said Cyccone.
Another person associated with the documentary, identified as a producer named Charlie Solomon, apparently did not go on the camping trip, according to Cyccone. Solomon has returned to Los Angeles, she said.