Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Latest News

New Mexico fines ‘Rust’ film company over Alec Baldwin shooting

Inspectors say production managers didn’t address two rifle misfires before cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.
Alec Baldwin emcees the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala at New York Hilton Midtown on Dec. 9, 2021, in New York. On Wednesday, New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October 2021 by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.
Alec Baldwin emcees the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala at New York Hilton Midtown on Dec. 9, 2021, in New York. On Wednesday, New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October 2021 by actor and producer Alec Baldwin. [ EVAN AGOSTINI | Evan Agostini/Invision/AP ]
Published Apr. 20|Updated Apr. 20

SANTA FE, N.M. —New Mexico workplace safety regulators on Wednesday issued the maximum possible fine of nearly $137,000 against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of Rust where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.

New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau said Rust Movie Productions must pay $136,793, and distributed a scathing narrative of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set prior to the fatal shooting. The bureau also documented gun safety complaints from crew members that went unheeded and said weapons specialists were not allowed to make decisions about additional safety training.

“What we had, based on our investigators’ findings, was a set of obvious hazards to employees regarding the use of firearms and management’s failure to act upon those obvious hazards,” Bob Genoway, bureau chief for occupational safety, told The Associated Press.

At a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe on Oct. 21, 2021, Baldwin was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins inside a small church during setup for the filming of a scene when it went off, killing Hutchins and wounding the director, Joel Souza.

This Oct. 23, 2021, aerial photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M. On Wednesday, New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October 2021 by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.
This Oct. 23, 2021, aerial photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M. On Wednesday, New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October 2021 by actor and producer Alec Baldwin. [ JAE C. HONG | AP ]

Baldwin said in a December interview with ABC News that he was pointing the gun at Hutchins at her instruction on the New Mexico set of the Western film when it went off without his pulling the trigger.

The new occupational safety report confirms that a large-caliber revolver was handed to Baldwin by an assistant director, David Halls, without consulting with on-set weapons specialists during or after the gun was loaded. Regulators note that Halls also served as safety coordinator and that he was present and witnessed two accidental discharges of rifles on set, and that he and other managers who knew of the misfires took no investigative, corrective or disciplinary action. Crew members expressed surprise and discomfort.

Related: 'Rust' assistant director David Halls fired after 2019 gun mishap

“The Safety Coordinator was present on set and took no direct action to address safety concerns,” the report states. “Management was provided with multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so. As a result of these failures, Director Joel Souza and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were severely injured. Halyna Hutchins succumbed to her injuries.”

In this Jan. 28, 2019, photo, Halyna Hutchins attends the SAGindie Sundance Filmmakers Reception at Cafe Terigo in Park City, Utah. New Mexico workplace safety regulators say they have issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set where Hutchins was fatally shot in October by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.
In this Jan. 28, 2019, photo, Halyna Hutchins attends the SAGindie Sundance Filmmakers Reception at Cafe Terigo in Park City, Utah. New Mexico workplace safety regulators say they have issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set where Hutchins was fatally shot in October by actor and producer Alec Baldwin. [ FRED HAYES | Getty Images North America ]

Rust Movie Productions said through a spokesperson that it would dispute the findings and sanction.

“While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal,” said Stefan Friedman. Any appeal would be heard initially by the state’s occupational health and safety commission.

An attorney for Baldwin was not immediately available.

Related: ‘Rust’ crew member: Alec Baldwin careful with guns before fatal shooting

The state fine applies to a film with a budget of about $7 million. Baldwin was assigned a salary of $250,000 as an actor and producer and may have put some of that money back into the production.

At least five lawsuits have been filed over the shooting, including a wrongful death suit brought by Hutchins’ family against Baldwin and the movie’s other producers. The lawsuit on behalf of widower Matt Hutchins and his 9-year-old son alleges a “callous” disregard in the face of safety complaints on the set.

James Kenney, secretary of the Environment Department that oversees occupational safety, said the agency dedicated 1,500 staff hours to its investigation, examined hundreds of documents and conducted at least a dozen interviews with cast and crew members.

Investigators found production managers placed tight limits on resources for a small team that controlled weapons on set and failed to address concerns about a shotgun left unattended twice.

Armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the daughter of a sharpshooter and consultant to film productions, was limited to eight paid days as an armorer to oversee weapons and training, and was assigned otherwise to lighter duties as a props assistant. As her time as an armorer ran out, Gutierrez Reed warned a manager and was rebuffed.

Gutierrez Reed is both a plaintiff and a defendant in lawsuits seeking damages in the fatal shooting. In a statement Wednesday, her attorney highlighted findings that the armorer “was not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively.”

This Oct. 23, 2021, photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch, where the film "Rust" was being filmed, in Santa Fe, N.M. On Wednesday, New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October 2021 by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.
This Oct. 23, 2021, photo shows the Bonanza Creek Ranch, where the film "Rust" was being filmed, in Santa Fe, N.M. On Wednesday, New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October 2021 by actor and producer Alec Baldwin. [ JAE C. HONG | AP ]

Safety investigators also note that the production company did not develop a process to ensure live rounds of ammunition were not brought on set, in violation of industry safety protocols. Safety meetings were conducted, but not every day weapons were used, as required.

Kenney said the separate investigations into possible criminal charges are still underway. The Santa Fe County sheriff and local prosecutors had no immediate comment.

Kenney said his agency received no direct safety complaints from cast or crew prior to the fatal shooting, even though anonymity is offered.

“This tragedy, this loss of life, it could have been prevented, and we want people to say something,” he said.

Kenney was appointed in 2019 by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a staunch advocate for the film industry who increased a state cap in industry incentives shortly after taking office.

New Mexico competes with non-Hollywood production sites in states such as Georgia, Louisiana and New York. Film productions have flocked to New Mexico in recent years to seize on its diverse outdoor scenery, moderate costs and generous state incentives, including a rebate of between 25 percent and 35 percent of in-state spending for video production that helps filmmakers large and small underwrite their work.

By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press.

This story has been updated to correct the state workplace safety fine to $136,793 instead of $139,793.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge