No, viral clip does not show a plane crash caused by tropical storm Hilary

By: John Faerseth
August 23 2023

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No, viral clip does not show a plane crash caused by tropical storm Hilary


The Verdict False

The clip was filmed at a Universal Studios theme park in California. The wreckage was part of a film set.

Claim ID 9a97251d


On August 20, an earthquake of 5.1 magnitude struck Southern California, U.S., where residents were already bracing for tropical storm Hilary. Against this backdrop, a video is going viral on X (formerly Twitter) with the claim that it shows the destruction caused in Long Beach, California, by the two disasters.

The video shows what appears to be the wreckage of a crashed airplane in front of destroyed residential houses. One X user sharing the video wrote, “BREAKING: A plane has just crash landed in Long Beach, CA as a result of hurricane Hilary and the 5.5 earthquake. Y’all stay safe out there!” The post had amassed over 435,000 views at the time of publishing. 

However, this clip is from Universal Studios, California, and does not show the aftermath of tropical storm Hilary, a category 4 hurricane that inundated the region.

 In fact

Although several people appear to have believed that the video showed actual damage caused by the hurricane, some users pointed out in the replies that the footage depicted a ride at a Universal Studios’ theme park. A comparison of the viral clip with two videos published on YouTube revealed that the footage was reportedly indeed taken at Universal Studios’ theme park in Hollywood, California. 

The first video was shared by ‘Theme Park Connect’ on the video-streaming platform in June 2020. It is titled, “Studio Tour-War of the Worlds Set | Universal Studios Hollywood (2020).” Around the 0:21 timestamp, one can spot the crashed police car as seen in the viral clip, A semi-destroyed house, a mailbox, and a house on a tree-covered hill behind the wreckage—all these landmarks are distinctly visible in both videos. 

According to the description of the YouTube video, the Universal Studios’ theme park tour in Hollywood includes visiting an outdoor airplane crash set built for the 2005 movie ‘War of the Worlds,’ directed by Steven Spielberg. The production bought a commercial 747 aircraft, chopped it up, and transported it to the theme park, where it now forms part of the tour.. Photos from the set, showing similar scenes from the viral clip, are also available on a fan site dedicated to Universal Studios’ theme park in Hollywood.

The second video was shared by ‘Alex Abrazura’ on May 11, 2022. The video, which is nearly 48 minutes long, is titled, “FULL Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. Reopened !!! May 2021, 4K ! While the viral clip and the 2021 YouTube video are shot from different angles, both show the same scenes and objects, including the crashed police car, the semi-destroyed house, and the mailbox. 

Both YouTube videos establish that the viral clip was not filmed in California after a plane crashed in the aftermath of Hilary, but was recorded at a theme park.

One can also hear voices talking calmly about “production design” and “a different Steven Spielberg” in the viral clip indicating that the video is not from a real crash site. 

Hilary is the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years, bringing fierce winds and flooding. Additionally, California experienced a 5.1 magnitude (not 5.5) earthquake the same afternoon, with the epicenter north-west of Los Angeles. The earthquake did not cause significant damage.

There have also been no reports of airplanes crashing during the two natural disasters. According to the American non-profit organization Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), there have been very few hurricanes-related accidents.

The verdict

The video clip was filmed at a Universal Studios’ theme park. There have not been any reports of airplanes crashing in the aftermath of hurricane Hilary or the earthquake that simultaneously hit California. Therefore, we rate the claim as false. 

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