Workplace safety regulators in New Mexico have issued the maximum legal fines against the production company behind Alec Baldwin’s Western, Rust, Wednesday for firearms safety failures on the set where star/executive producer Baldwin accidentally shot to death cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza last October while practicing quick-draws.
As the Associated Press reports, New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau has ordered Rust Movie Productions to pay $139,793. While that’s small beans to the likes of Baldwin and the production company—who are already on the business end of lawsuits related to Hutchins’ death—the regulators also furnished a laundry list of things they found to be in violation of standard industry protocols.
Investigators gathered testimony that production managers took little or no action to address two misfires on the desert set prior to the fatal shooting. The bureau also documented gun safety complaints from crew members that went unheeded and said weapons specialists were not allowed to make decisions about additional safety training.
“What we had, based on our investigators’ findings, was a set of obvious hazards to employees regarding the use of firearms and management’s failure to act upon those obvious hazards,” Bob Genoway, bureau chief for occupational safety, told the AP.
Baldwin has stated that the single-action revolver he was practicing with discharged without his pulling the trigger, which is not unusual with that type of firearm. Now, the occupational safety report confirms that a large-caliber revolver was handed to Baldwin by assistant director David Halls without consulting with on-set weapons specialists during or after the gun was loaded.
Regulators further note that Halls also served as safety coordinator and that he witnessed the two previous on-set accidental discharges, but that he and other managers took no investigative, corrective or disciplinary action, AP reports.
“The Safety Coordinator was present on set and took no direct action to address safety concerns,” the report states. “Management was provided with multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so. As a result of these failures, Director Joel Souza and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were severely injured. Halyna Hutchins succumbed to her injuries.”
And while much has been made of armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed’s inexperience, the report points out that she was limited to eight paid days as armorer to oversee weapons and training, and was otherwise assigned props assistant duties. The reports states that Gutierrez Reed warned a manager that her time as armorer was running out, but was rebuffed.
Gutierrez Reed is suing the supplier of the ammunition, claiming the company sent a mismarked box of ammunition containing live rounds to the set.
James Kenney, secretary of the Environment Department that oversees occupational safety, said the agency dedicated 1,500 staff hours to its investigation, examined hundreds of documents and conducted at least a dozen interviews with cast and crew members.
Kenney also told the AP that investigations into possible criminal charges are still being conducted, and that no one from the film ever complained to his agency before Hutchins was killed, although they were offered anonymity.
“This tragedy, this loss of life, it could have been prevented, and we want people to say something,” he said.
The production company and reps. for Baldwin did not comment to AP, but Baldwin has claimed through his lawyers that his Rust contract excuses him from any liability in the case.
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