The New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau has leveled a nearly $137,000 fine against the production company of the movie “Rust” over the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on set last October.
Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney put the blame squarely on Rust Movie Productions, saying the “tragic incident never would have happened” had the company and its managers “followed national film industry standards for firearm safety.”
“This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe,” Kenney said.
Actor Alec Baldwin, also one of the producers of the movie western, was handling the gun — which was loaded with a live round — during a rehearsal on the set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, as CrimeOnline previously reported. While Baldwin has insisted he didn’t pull the trigger and gun “went off,” it did fire, striking director of photography Halnya Hutchins and the film’s director, Joel Souza. Hutchins was killed.
The bureau completed its investigation of the incident and released its results on Wednesday, saying it had levied “the highest level of citation and maximum fine allowable by state law” because the company’s “plain indifference” to the hazards involved with using firearms on set “resulted in a fatality, severe injury, and unsafe working conditions.”
The report cited the company for violating eight guidelines to firearm safety on set, including allowing live ammunition to be brought onto the set, failing to have safety meetings on every day that firearms were being handled, and allowing employees to point the firearm at other without proper consultations.
Managers — including 1st assistant director and safety coordinator Dave Halls, unit production manager Row Walters, and line producer Gabrielle Pickles — failed to do any follow-up after three previous misfires on set and directed the movie’s armorer, Hannah Guttierez-Reed, to focus more of her attention on props management than firearm safety.
Rust Movie Productions has 15 business days to pay the $136,793 civil penalty and provide proof of corrective measures taken or to contest the decision.
The bureau’s report is not related to a criminal investigation into the shooting, which is still ongoing.
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[Featured image: Alec Baldwin/AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File and Halnya Hutchins/Instagram]