Four months after the tragic on-set shooting accident that claimed the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, her family has filed a lawsuit against Alec Baldwin and others involved in the film, alleging that reckless behaviour and cost-cutting led to her death.
Hutchins was working on the independent film Rust in Santa Fe, New Mexico when she was fatally wounded by a bullet that was discharged from what was supposed to be a “cold” (unloaded) prop gun used by Alec Baldwin for a scene. The bullet also hit the film’s director Joel Souza, lodging in his shoulder.
The filmmaker’s October 21 death resulted in a petition being circulated calling for a ban on using real firearms on film sets and better working conditions for crew while there were calls to examine the way productions operate and to ensure that everyone on set is adequately trained.
The lawsuit filed by Hutchins’ family refers to text messages and emails sent by camera assistant Lane Luper, who raised concerns about accidental discharges on set, and who left the production with several others just before Hutchins’ death.
It also alleges that Baldwin, who has said that he did not pull the trigger on the prop gun, violated numerous rules for the safe handling of firearms and suggests he committed reckless discharge of a deadly weapon — a criminal offence in the State of New Mexico.
“Halyna Hutchins deserved to live,” the lawsuit reads, “and the Defendants had the power to prevent her death if they had only held sacrosanct their duty to protect the safety of every individual on a set where firearms were present instead of cutting corners on safety procedures where human lives were at stake, rushing to stay on schedule and ignoring numerous complaints of safety violations.”
In addition to Baldwin, the suit names seven producers as defendants — Ryan Smith, Allen Cheney, Nathan Klingher, Ryan Winterstern, Anjul Nigam, Matthew DelPiano, and Emily Salveson — as well as crew members Sarah Zachry, Dave Halls, Gabrielle Pickle, Seth Kenney, Hannah Reed Gutierrez and others.
Reed Gutierrez was the armourer on the set of the film, with many expressing concern at the 24-year-old’s lack of experience in such a role. The incident was promptly investigated by New Mexico police as well as the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, with search warrants revealing that Reed Gutierrez loaded the Colt .45 with what she believed were dummy rounds. She then gave the gun to first assistant director Dave Halls who declared the gun to be “cold” while handing it to Baldwin.
Hutchins’ death was not the first time someone working on a film has been accidentally killed via a shooting. In 1993 actor Brandon Lee was fatally wounded on the set of The Crow after a prop gun was loaded with improperly-made dummy rounds and the failure to carry out a safety check on the firearm meant that a bullet stuck in the gun barrel (known as a squib load) went unnoticed.
Hutchins is survived by her husband, Matthew Hutchins, and their 9-year-old son.