Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun on a New Mexico movie set, accidentally killing one crew member and injuring another. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead and director Joel Souza, 48, was injured in the collarbone area.
The accident took place at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County on Thursday afternoon (Oct. 21) while filming the western, Rust. Friday morning, Mr. Baldwin, 63, tweeted his sorrow:
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
An active investigation is still going on to determine how the tragedy could have happened. Larry Zanoff, an armorer who works on movie sets, though not involved in Rust, explained that normally only blank ammunition is used; cartridge cases without bullets. Sometimes prop guns such as rubber firearms are utilized, but generally its actual firearms with blanks that are used on sets. “The safety guidelines that we live by on television and movie sets prohibit the use of live ammunition on a set,” Zanoff said, adding that safety protocols have people about 20 feet away from the muzzle of the gun.
The movie, set in 1880s Kansas, is about a 13-year-old boy trying to take care of his younger brother after their parents’ death. After accidentally killing a local rancher and being sentenced to hang, the boy goes on the run with his estranged grandfather, played by Baldwin.
According to a representative from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, “Mr. Baldwin was questioned by investigators and released. No arrests or charges have been filed.” The rep added: “This investigation remains open and active. No charges have been filed in regard to this incident. Witnesses continue to be interviewed by detectives.”
Tragic accidents like this have happened in the past. In 1993, Brandon Lee, son of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, was shot and killed while filming The Crow when a bullet lodged in the barrel of a gun was discharged. Shannon Lee, Brandon’s sister, reached out on Twitter offering her condolences to the families of the victims: “Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on ‘Rust’. No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.” A broken-hearted emoji was added at the end of the statement.
In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum, 27, shot himself in the head while playing Russian roulette on the set of the television series Coverup.
According to a 2016 report from the Associated Press, “since 1990, at least 43 people have died on sets in the U.S. and more than 150 have been left with life-altering injuries.” These kinds of incidents range from falling off ladders to vehicle accidents. Death by prop firearms is not common, as Kevin Williams, the prop department supervisor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television explained:
“It is an extremely rare circumstance that anything like this happens. Especially nowadays when there are so many different procedures and policies in place. This is one of these freak accidents.”
~ Read more from Kelli Ballard.