Mother of stuntman killed on “The Walking Dead” set to sue

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The family of a stuntman who fell to his death on the set of “The Walking Dead” in Georgia is moving forward with a lawsuit against the show’s production company.

Attorney Jeff Harris says in a statement Saturday that they’ll proceed with civil litigation now that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Stalwart Films for what it says are serious violations and proposed the maximum allowable fine in the death of 33-year-old John Bernecker last July.

In a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Friday, Stalwart Films was cited for “failing to protect employees from fall hazards while filming the television show, ‘The Walking Dead.’”

“OSHA issued a serious citation and proposed penalties totaling the maximum allowable fine of $12,675, for the company’s failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards,” the statement reads. “OSHA investigated Stalwart’s filming location in Senoia after a stuntman was fatally injured after falling more than 20 feet.”

“This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry,” said OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer. “The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.”

The fine was assessed in the “serious” category of violations as defined by OSHA, whereas the more severe categories are “repeated” or “willful.”

Stalwart Films issued their own statement, which reads:

“This was a tragic and terrible accident. We take the safety of our employees extremely seriously on all of our sets and comply with – and frequently exceed – industry safety standards. We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response.”

In July, Bernecker was filming a stunt for Season 8 with series regular Austin Amelio. The stunt required him to fall approximately 22 feet off of a balcony onto a safety cushion below. But according to assistant director Matthew Goodwin, Bernecker failed to get a “good separation” from the balcony. He landed on his head and neck on the concrete next to the safety cushion, per the incident report from the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office.

An on-site medic rendered aid immediately, and Bernecker was airlifted to an Atlanta medical center, where he was placed on a ventilator. His family opted to turn the ventilator off the following day. Many of the main cast offered their condolences to Bernecker’s family via social media shortly after he died.

Source: Variety