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By Morgan Lee in Santa Fe
SANTA FE, NM (AP) — New Mexico workplace safety regulators on Wednesday imposed the maximum possible fine of nearly $137,000 on a film production company for gun safety violations on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was shot in October by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.
The New Mexico Office of Occupational Health and Safety said Rust Movie Productions had to pay $136,793 and distributed a scathing account of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimonials that production managers took limited or no action to remedy two misfires on set before the death. filming. The office also documented gun safety complaints from crew members that went unheeded and said weapons specialists were not authorized to make decisions about additional safety training.
“What we had, based on the findings of our investigators, was a set of obvious dangers to employees regarding the use of firearms and management’s failure to respond to those obvious dangers,” said Bob Genoway, Bureau Chief of Workplace Safety, at The Associated Press.
At a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on October 21, 2021, Baldwin was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins inside a small church while preparing to shoot a scene when she triggered, killing Hutchins and injuring the director, Joel Souza.
Baudouin said in a December interview with ABC News that he was pointing the gun at Hutchins on his instructions on the set of the Western movie in New Mexico when it went off without him pulling the trigger.
The new workplace safety report confirms that a high-caliber revolver was handed to Baldwin by an assistant director, David Halls, without consulting with on-set weapons specialists during or after the weapon was loaded. Regulators note that Halls also served as the security coordinator and that he was present and witnessed two accidental rifle discharges on set, and that he and other managers who were aware of the misfires did not taken no investigative, corrective or disciplinary action. Crew members expressed surprise and unease.
“The security coordinator was present on set and took no direct action to address security issues,” the report said. “Management had multiple opportunities to take corrective action and chose not to. As a result of these failures, director Joel Souza and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were seriously injured. Halyna Hutchins succumbed to her injuries.
Rust Movie Productions said through a spokesperson that it would contest the findings and the sanction.
“While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal,” Stefan Friedman said. Any appeals would be heard initially by the state Occupational Health and Safety Commission.
A lawyer for Baldwin was not immediately available.
The state fine applies to a film with a budget of approximately $7 million. Baldwin received a salary of $250,000 as actor and producer and may have reinvested some of that money into the production.
At least five lawsuits were filed for the filming, including a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Hutchins’ family against Baldwin and the film’s other producers. The lawsuit on behalf of widower Matt Hutchins and her 9-year-old son alleges “ruthless” disregard for on-set safety complaints.
James Kenney, secretary of the Department of the Environment which oversees workplace safety, said the agency spent 1,500 staff hours on its investigation, reviewed hundreds of documents and conducted at least a dozen interviews with officials. cast and crew members.
Investigators found that production managers placed strict limits on the resources of a small crew that controlled weapons on set and failed to address concerns about a shotgun being left unattended on two occasions.
Gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the daughter of a sniper and consultant for film productions, was limited to eight paid days as a gunsmith to oversee weapons and training, and was otherwise assigned to lighter duties in as a props assistant. As his time as a gunsmith ran out, Gutierrez Reed tipped off a manager and was pushed away.
Gutierrez Reed is both plaintiff and defendant in lawsuits for damages in the fatal shooting. In a statement Wednesday, his attorney highlighted findings that the gunsmith “was not given sufficient time or resources to complete his work.”
Safety investigators also note that the production company has not developed a process to ensure live ammunition is not brought onto set, in violation of industry security protocols. Security meetings were held, but not every day weapons were used, as required.
Kenney said separate investigations into possible criminal charges are still ongoing. The Santa Fe County Sheriff and local prosecutors had no immediate comment.
Kenney said his agency did not receive any direct security complaints from the cast or crew prior to the fatal shooting, although anonymity was offered.
“This tragedy, this loss of life, it could have been avoided, and we want people to say something,” he said.
Kenney was nominated in 2019 by Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a vocal film industry advocate who raised the state’s cap on industry incentives shortly after taking office.
New Mexico competes with non-Hollywood production sites in states like Georgia, Louisiana and New York. Film productions have flocked to New Mexico in recent years to take advantage of its diverse outdoor landscapes, moderate costs, and generous state incentives, including a 25% to 35% rebate on film expenses. Status for video production that helps filmmakers big and small to underwrite their work.
This story has been updated to correct the state workplace safety fine to $136,793 from $139,793.