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New Mexico slams ‘Rust’ movie firm for ‘willful’ safety failure


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April 20 – New Mexico on Wednesday fined Rust Movie Productions LLC the maximum amount possible and blasted the company for “willful” safety lapses leading to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins last year during the filming of Western “Rust.”

An investigation by the state’s worker safety agency, which fined the company $137,000, found that the production firm knew firearm safety procedures were not being followed and demonstrated “plain indifference” to the hazards, the New Mexico Environment Department said in a statement.

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“This tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety,” Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in the news release.

Hutchins was killed in October when a revolver that actor and producer Alec Baldwin was rehearsing with during filming in New Mexico fired a live round that hit her and movie director Joel Souza. Souza was wounded but survived.

“While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal,” Rust Movie Productions spokesman Stefan Friedman said in a statement on Wednesday.

New Mexico’s work safety agency administers the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) program.

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Its six-month probe found that Rust management, including Line Producer Gabrielle Pickle and Unit Production Manager Row Walters, ignored concerns raised by crew members about firearm and pyrotechnics misfires on set.

It said Assistant Director and Safety Coordinator Dave Halls witnessed accidental discharges but took no corrective action.

3rd Shift Media, a Georgia production company that lists Pickle and Row as employees, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Halls’ lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The report said Rust management failed to give staff responsible for firearms safety sufficient time to inspect ammunition received to ensure no live rounds were present.

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The investigation found that Hannah Gutierrez, who was responsible for firearm safety, was told to focus less on her tasks as set armorer and spend more time helping the props department. When she said actors needed firearm safety training, Gutierrez was told she would be informed if that was necessary, the report said.

Lawyers for Gutierrez said in a statement that OSHA had found that she was “not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively.”

Baldwin has denied responsibility for Hutchins’ death and said live rounds should never have been allowed onto the set.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Fe County District Attorney have ongoing criminal investigations into the death of the cinematographer. (Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Jonathan Oatis)

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