The producers of AMC’s hit television series The Walking Dead have been hit with a federal penalty after an investigation triggered by a stuntman’s death on the show’s Georgia set last summer.
Thirty-three-year-old stuntman John Bernecker was shooting at The Walking Dead’s filming location in Senoia, Georgia, on July 12, 2017, when he fell head-first off a balcony and landed on a concrete floor more than 20 feet below.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Deputy Sheriff J.P. Traylor, the first responder to arrive at The Walking Dead set where the fatal accident occurred, said Mr. Bernecker was supposed to fall from the balcony railing onto a pad made of a layer of boxes, “PortaPit” pads, and another large pad, but missed the padding by inches.
Mr. Bernecker was airlifted by helicopter to Atlanta Medical Center about 30 minutes after the fall. He died in the hospital the following day.
The fatal accident triggered an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which cited Stalwart Films LLC, The Walking Dead’s production company, for one safety violation with the maximum allowable fine of $12,675.
The violation concerned The Walking Dead’s producers failure to failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards.
“This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry,” OSHA’s Atlanta regional administrator, Kurt Petermeyer, said in a statement. “The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.”
Mr. Bernecker was an experienced stunt professional and stunt coordinator with 93 stunt credits to his name in less than a decade of work. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was experienced enough to design and prep stunts and oversee the safety of other stuntmen.
Mr. Bernecker’s death was the second film-set fatality in Georgia in recent years. In 2014, Sarah Jones, a crew member on the set of Midnight Rider, a biopic about the life of rock legend Greg Allman, was killed after being struck by a train near Savannah. Six other workers on the set were injured.
Midnight Rider director Randall Miller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2015 and was sentenced to two years in prison. Prosecutors alleged Mr. Miller and other set leaders often failed to follow basic safety rules during filming.