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Actor survived helicopter crash that changed his life

Legendary actor Kirk Douglas, who died peacefully at 103 Wednesday, grew to truly appreciate his remarkable life after a series of setbacks — including surviving a severe stroke in 1996 and a life-changing Feb. 13, 1991, helicopter crash.

“I’ll never forget the date,” Douglas wrote in the opening of his 2000 autobiographical work “Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning” of the crash that set off a media storm at the time. The collision with a small plane, and loss of the two plane’s passengers, made it “the most important day of my life” that would alter it “forever.”

The tough-guy actor was 74 and a passenger flying with his pilot friend, cartoon voice artist Noel Blanc, from California’s Santa Paula Airport. Blanc took the Bell Jet Ranger helicopter up for the routine flight, flying tragically into the path of a Pitts aerobatic plane flown by Lee Manelski, 47, and student pilot David Tomlinson, 18, who were both killed.

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