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Film And TV Industry No Stranger To Tragic On-Set Deaths: Five Prominent Examples

The fatal prop gun incident involving Alec Baldwin, and which left cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead, prompted comparisons to the 1993 death of Brandon Bruce Lee on the set of "The Crow."

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On Thursday, Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set of the western film "Rust," which killed the movie's cinematographer and injured the director.

Baldwin was reportedly in tears as he went to talk to investigators following the incident on the New Mexico set. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed and the film’s director Joel Souza was injured; he has since been released from the hospital.

No charges have been filed and the shooting remains under investigation.

As a response to the shooting, a Twitter account run by the family of Brandon Bruce Lee tweeted, “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.”

The message from Lee's family was poignant because it underscores that Thursday's accident was far from the first to take place on a film or television set. Here are some other prominent examples:

Brandon Bruce Lee

Brandon Bruce Lee, the son of the iconic martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, was 28 when he was killed in 1993 by a prop gun on the set of “The Crow,” a movie in which he played the lead role. He was killed after co-star Michael Massee fired the prop, which still contained a fragment of a real bullet, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. Thursday’s shooting instantly drew comparisons to Lee's death and his name began trending by Thursday night.

No criminal charges were filed in Lee’s death.

The deaths of Hutchins and Lee are one of dozens of deaths that occurred on film and television sets over the past three decades. The Associated Press reports that there have been at least 43 deaths in the United States on set between 1990 and 2014 as well as at least 194 serious accidents.

Brandon Bruce Lee The Crow

Vic Morrow, Renee Shinn Chen & My-ca Dinh Lee

A horrific accident on the set of the “Twilight Zone” in 1982 killed actors Vic Morrow, 53; Renee Shinn Chen, 6; and My-ca Dinh Lee, 7.

The tail rotor of a helicopter was hit by debris from explosives meant to create an atmosphere reminiscent of the Vietnam War, the New York Times reports. As a result, the helicopter pitched and the main rotor struck and killed all three victims on the Los Angeles set.

“Twilight Zone” director John Landis and four other film crew members were charged with involuntary manslaughter, the New York Times reported in 1987. All five were acquitted that same year. The Directors Guild of America created a safety committee in response to the tragedy.

Twilight Zone Movie Helicopter Crash G

Sarah Jones

Camera assistant Sarah Jones, 27, died after being struck by a train on the Georgia set of independent film “Midnight Rider” in 2014. She and other crew members were hit by the freight train while trying to set up a shot on the tracks, the New York Times reported at the time. She died and other crew members were injured. Actor Olivia Jackson lost one of her arms.

The movie’s director Randall Miller pleaded guilty in 2015 to involuntary manslaughter. He served a year in jail and received a decade of probation, Variety reported. Jones’ family also reached a settlement with 11 defendants in a lawsuit over her death in 2014. 

Jon-Erik Hexum

As with Hutchins and Lee, Hexum also died as a result of a prop gun accident. He shot himself in the head while playing Russian roulette with a prop gun on the set of the television series “Cover Up,” in 1984, the New York Times reported at the time.

Jon-Erik-Hexum-g.jpg

He had loaded blanks into the handgun before pointing it at his right temple. The force of the blank fatally fractured his skull and he died days after the impact. The shooting was ruled an accident and nobody was charged for his death.

John Bernecker

John Bernecker, a stuntman the television series “The Walking Dead,” fatally fell off a balcony on a Georgia set in 2017, the New York Times reported at the time.

His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2018 against AMC Networks, Stalwart Films and others alleging that appropriate safety measures hadn't been put in place. A jury found AMC Network not to be negligent in 2019 but awarded the stuntman’s family more than $8 million in civil damages, Deadline reported. This year, the Georgia Court of Appeals overturned the $8 million award.

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