Monday, January 8, 2018

The Walking Dead Hit With Big Fine Over Stuntman’s Death


Back in the summer, John Bernecker, a 33-year-old stunt performer and fight choreographer, died after suffering a serious head injury due to an accident on the set of The Walking Dead in Atlanta.

The incident occurred when Bernecker was practicing a fight scene and lost his footing, causing him to fall off a balcony that was more than 20 feet high and onto a concrete floor. He was then transported to Atlanta Medical Center via helicopter where he was reportedly placed on a ventilator. The decision to remove him from life support was made shortly after and the official cause of death given by Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk was the blunt force trauma he suffered in the fall.

Bernecker was one of the most prolific stunt performers in the business, with over 100 credits to his name in the past seven years, including The Hunger Games, Logan and the upcoming Marvel movie Black Panther. After his death, production was temporarily halted and ever since, the incident has cast a shadow over the show.

Now, we’re learning that The Walking Dead‘s production company, Stalwart Films, has been hit with the maximum fine of $12,675 for “failing to protect employees from fall hazards while filming the television show,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s statement on Friday.

"OSHA issued a serious citation and proposed penalties totaling the maximum allowable fine of $12,675, for the company’s failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards,” the statement said. “OSHA investigated Stalwart’s filming location in Senoia after a stuntman was fatally injured after falling more than 20 feet."

"This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry,” OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer added. “The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work."

Stalwart Films, meanwhile, had this to add:

“This was a tragic and terrible accident. We take the safety of our employees extremely seriously on all of our sets and comply with – and frequently exceed – industry safety standards. We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response.”

Obviously, this won’t have any sort of negative impact on the show itself, but as Petermeyer says, it’ll no doubt act as a wake-up call to the industry and hopefully prevent this sort of tragedy from ever happening again. Stunt work will always be dangerous, but in recent times, it seems as if Hollywood has really been slacking when it comes to ensuring the safety of crew members and that’s absolutely unacceptable.

As for The Walking Dead, the hit zombie drama will shuffle back onto AMC on February 25th, just in time for its midseason premiere.