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Film producer Toby Halicki, who won a cult following with car-crash movies, was killed when a water tower fell prematurely during preparations for a stunt that local officials initially had tried to prevent.

Halicki, 48, of Gardena, Calif., was killed Sunday during filming for the movie "Gone in 60 Seconds II," Tonawanda police officer Michael Thorp said.The collapse of the 141-foot water tower apparently caused an attached cable to snap and knock over a telephone pole, which fell on Halicki, Thorp said.

An emergency medical technician and a nurse worked to save Halicki, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at Kenmore Mercy Hospital. Thorp said Halicki died of internal injuries.

Halicki, who also was directing and starring in the film, had fought with local officials for two months for permission to topple the water tower. He was allowed to go ahead only after obtaining $8 million worth of insurance.

Tonawanda Town Supervisor Ronald Moline had accused Halicki of "flying by the seat of his pants." Moline did not return a call for comment made to his house Sunday.

In an interview with The Associated Press just hours before his death, Halicki denied his stunts were unsafe and said he thought town officials were out to "make my life as miserable as they could."

A native of nearby Dunkirk, N.Y., his given name was Henry B. Halicki but he was known as Toby.

He returned to the area three months ago to shoot segments for the sequel to his 1974 cult movie "Gone in 60 Seconds," in which Halicki played a car thief. The title refers to the time it takes a professional thief to steal a car.

The movie was called a cinematic demolition derby, and more of the same kind of action was planned for the sequel.