Producers of the movie “Rust” demonstrated “plain indifference” to firearms hazards and repeatedly violated industry safety protocols on the set where actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot a cinematographer, New Mexico health officials said Wednesday.
Filmmakers behind the low-budget Western where tragedy struck last October were handed the maximum allowable fine over the safety breaches, following a report by the southwestern US state’s environment department.
A separate and unrelated criminal investigation into how a Colt gun brandished by Baldwin during a rehearsal inside a church building discharged a live round, killing Halyna Hutchins, is still ongoing.
“Rust” producers “demonstrated plain indifference to the hazards associated with firearms by routinely failing to practice their own safety protocols, failing to enforce adherence to safety protocols,” the environment department report said.
They failed “to ensure that the handling of deadly weapons was afforded the time and effort needed to keep the cast and crew safe,” and ignored crew complaints over earlier instances when guns misfired on set, it said.
The set’s safety coordinator “took no direct action to address safety concerns,” while management “was provided multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so.”
Hutchins died and director Joel Souza was severely injured “as a result of these failures,” the report concluded.
The department’s Occupational Health & Safety Bureau – which interviewed 14 people and reviewed more than 500 documents – issued a “willful-serious citation” and a $136,793 civil penalty.
“This is the highest level of citation and maximum fine allowable by state law in New Mexico,” said a statement.
The report listed breaches of several industry guidelines, including bringing live ammunition on set, pre-loading weapons and leaving weapons unattended.
Other breaches it found included failing to hold safety meetings every day when firearms were being handled, and a lack of weapons-handling training for actors.
Actors pointed guns at the camera or at another person during “many camera shots” without consulting a weapons expert, the report said.
“Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety,” said New Mexico environment cabinet secretary James Kenney.
“This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”
Stefan Friedman, a spokesperson for Rust Movie Productions, wrote in a statement to AFP that while the producers “appreciate” the OHSB’s “time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with Halyna’s family.”
‘NOT ME’ — police have not yet filed criminal charges over the tragedy and have refused to rule out charges against anyone involved, including Baldwin.
Hutchins’ family has sued Baldwin and other “Rust” producers, claiming “substantial” damages for her wrongful death.
Other civil proceedings over the fatal shooting have been launched against producers by the movie’s chief lighting technician and script supervisor.
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the set’s armorer in charge of weapons, has sued the film’s ammunition supplier, accusing him of leaving real bullets among the dummy cartridges.
Baldwin, who was the star and a producer on “Rust,” has said he was told the gun contained no live ammunition, had been instructed by Hutchins to point the gun in her direction, and did not pull the trigger.
“I feel that someone is responsible for what happened and I can’t say who that is,” Baldwin said in an interview in December.
“But I know it’s not me.”