'Walking Dead' handed maximum fine over stuntman's death

movie & TV January 06, 2018 07:59

By Agence France-Presse
Los Angeles

The production company behind AMC zombie series "The Walking Dead" has been hit with the maximum possible fine over the death of a stuntman, the US government said on Friday.



The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it had cited Stalwart Films for "failing to protect employees from fall hazards while filming the television show 'The Walking Dead.'"

"OSHA issued a serious citation and proposed penalties totaling the maximum allowable fine of $12,675," it said in a statement.

John Bernecker died in hospital in July after falling 22 feet (6.70 meters) from a balcony headfirst onto concrete during filming in Senoia, Georgia.

An assistant director told police Bernecker missed a safety cushion "by inches" and tried to break his fall by grabbing a railing after he slipped, celebrity news website TMZ reported at the time.

Film and TV shows released last year were among the worst in recent history for serious accidents on set -- most of which happened during filming in the previous two years.

Stunt pilot Alan Purwin and Venezuelan co-pilot Carlos Berl were killed in 2015 when their plane crashed in Colombia during filming for Tom Cruise's "American Made."

Cruise himself broke an ankle during a stunt last year, although that was for a 2018 movie, "Mission Impossible 6."

Olivia Jackson, a stunt double for "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," was severely injured in a motorcycle accident on set in South Africa in 2015, leaving her in a medically-induced coma for two weeks.

Her horrific injuries included brain trauma, a severed artery in her neck, broken ribs, a shattered collar bone and nerves torn out of her spinal cord. Her left arm had to be amputated.

Days later, crew member Ricardo Cornelius was crushed to death by a utility vehicle that slid off a platform he was operating.

In 2016, a construction worker was killed while dismantling one of the sets for "Blade Runner 2049" in Budapest, Hungary.

OSHA Atlanta regional administrator Kurt Petermeyer said the death on the set of "The Walking Dead" should serve as a "wake-up call" for Hollywood.

"The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work," he added.

Bernecker's resume included stunt performances in several recent films, including "Get Out," "Logan" and "The Fate of the Furious."

Stalwart Films circulated a statement to US media describing Bernecker's death as "a tragic and terrible accident," adding that it complies with -- and frequently exceeds -- industry safety standards.

"We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response," it added.