New Mexico fines ‘Rust’ production company for ‘obvious risks’ in fatal shooting of cinematographer

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SANTA FE, NM (AP) — New Mexico workplace safety regulators on Wednesday imposed the maximum possible fine of nearly $137,000 on a film production company for firearms safety violations on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was shot in October by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.

The New Mexico Office of Occupational Health and Safety said Rust Movie Productions had to pay $136,793 and distributed a scathing account of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimonials that production managers took limited or no action to remedy two misfires on set before the death. filming. The office also documented gun safety complaints from crew members that went unheeded and said weapons specialists were not authorized to make decisions about additional safety training.

READ MORE: Let the Computers Do It: A Tragedy on a Movie Set Prompts a Gun Ban

“What we had, based on the findings of our investigators, was a set of obvious dangers to employees regarding the use of firearms and management’s failure to respond to those obvious dangers,” said Bob Genoway, Bureau Chief of Workplace Safety, at The Associated Press.

At a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 21, 2021, Baldwin was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins inside a small church while preparing to shoot a scene when she triggered, killing Hutchins and injuring the director, Joel Souza.

Baldwin said in a December interview with ABC News that he was pointing the gun at Hutchins on his instructions about filming the Western movie in New Mexico when it went off without him pulling the trigger.

The new workplace safety report confirms that a high-caliber revolver was handed to Baldwin by an assistant director, David Halls, without consulting with on-set weapons specialists during or after the weapon was loaded. Regulators note that Halls also served as the security coordinator and that he was present and witnessed two accidental rifle discharges on set, and that he and other managers who were aware of the misfires did not taken no investigative, corrective or disciplinary action. Crew members expressed surprise and unease.

“The security coordinator was present on set and took no direct action to address security issues,” the report said. “Management had multiple opportunities to take corrective action and chose not to. As a result of these failures, director Joel Souza and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were seriously injured. Halyna Hutchins succumbed to her injuries.

A spokesperson for Rust Movie Productions did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A lawyer for Baldwin was not immediately available.

James Kenney, secretary of the Department of the Environment which oversees workplace safety, said the agency spent 1,500 staff hours on its investigation, reviewed hundreds of documents and conducted at least a dozen interviews with officials. cast and crew members.

Investigators found that production managers placed strict limits on the resources of a small crew that controlled weapons on set and failed to address concerns about a shotgun being left unattended on two occasions.

Gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed, daughter of a sniper and consultant for film productions, was limited to eight paid days as a gunsmith to oversee weapons and training, and was otherwise assigned to lighter duties as a props assistant. As his time as a gunsmith ran out, Gutierrez Reed tipped off a manager and was pushed away.

READ MORE: How live ammunition got on set still a mystery on Baldwin’s shoot

Safety investigators also note that the production company has not developed a process to ensure that actual cartridges are not brought onto set, in violation of industry safety protocols. Security meetings were held, but not every day weapons were used, as required.

Kenney said separate investigations into possible criminal charges are still ongoing.

He said his agency had not received any direct security complaints from the cast or crew prior to the fatal shooting, although anonymity was offered.

“This tragedy, this loss of life, it could have been avoided, and we want people to say something,” he said.

Kenney was nominated in 2019 by Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a vocal film industry advocate who raised the state’s cap on industry incentives shortly after taking office.

New Mexico competes with non-Hollywood production sites in states like Georgia, Louisiana and New York. Film productions have flocked to New Mexico in recent years to take advantage of its diverse outdoor landscapes, moderate costs, and generous state incentives, including a 25-35 percent rebate of state spending for video production that helps filmmakers big and small to underwrite their work.

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