James Horner, film composer for Titanic and Braveheart, dies in plane crash

US film composer James Horner during an interview in Vienna, Austria, on Oct 3, 2013.
US film composer James Horner during an interview in Vienna, Austria, on Oct 3, 2013. PHOTO: EPA

LOS ANGELES - James Horner, a two-time Oscar winner and film composer known for his sweeping and evocative scores, died on Monday in a plane crash near Santa Barbara, California. He was 61.

The identity of the pilot of the single-engine plane registered to Horner was not initially known. His death was later confirmed by by Sylvia Patrycja, who is identified on Horner's film music page as his assistant, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Ms Patrycja wrote on Facebook on Monday: "We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent. He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road."

A spokesman for the Ventura County fire service said that his plane, a S-312 Tucano MK1 turbo-prop with two seats, crashed at around 9.30am local time in the Los Padres national forest, a remote area about 96 km north of Santa Barbara. No one else was on board.

Horner had worked on three James Cameron films, two Star Trek movies and classic films such as A Beautiful Mind (2001), Apollo 13 (1995) and Field Of Dreams (1989).

For his work on the 1997 Best Picture Oscar winner Titanic, he clinched the Academy Award for original dramatic score, as well as original song, shared with lyricist Will Jennings, for the instantly recognisable My Heart Will Go On sung by Celine Dion. His score for Titanic has sold about 27 million copies worldwide.

He also received Oscar nominations for other work directed by Cameron, including the blockbuster hits Aliens (1986) and Avatar (2009). He had 10 Oscar nominations in all.

He had scored three films due to be released soon: boxing drama Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal, slated for a July release; Jean-Jacques Annaud's Wolf Totem, due September; and The 33, a dramatic film based on the 2010 mining disaster in Chile that is set for November.

Horner had said in a 2009 interview with the Los Angeles Times: "My job... is to make sure at every turn of the film it's something the audience can feel with their heart."