Americans were stunned to learn Thursday of a shocking death on a movie set.
NBC News reports that a woman was killed and a man injured after actor Alec Baldwin shot what was described as a prop gun on the set of the movie Rust.
The 63-year-old actor was reportedly in front of the camera — and behind the trigger — when he “discharged the stage firearm,” killing 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins, who was the film’s director of photography, and injuring 48-year-old Joel Souza, who was directing the motion picture.
“Shock and sadness”
According to NBC, a union representing theatrical workers characterized the incident as “an accidental weapons discharge” in a statement.
“A live single round was accidentally fired on set by the principal actor, hitting both the Director of Photography, Local 600 member Halyna Hutchins, and Director Joel Souza,” said the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 44.
In a statement of his own, Baldwin expressed “shock and sadness” over the incident.
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” the actor wrote in a tweet Friday, according to NBC. He went on:
I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.
Reports indicated that Souza, for his part, has already been discharged from the hospital.
No charges filed
According to the BBC, a spokesperson for Baldwin said “an accident” had occurred on the set of Rust in New Mexico “involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.”
Larry Zanoff, an expert on the use of weapons in Hollywood films, told The New York Times that prop guns only use blanks, or cartridges without bullets. But even with blanks, there is a minimum safe distance of 20 feet from the weapon, as smoke and embers can be propelled from the gun.
Zanoff also explained that prop guns need to be regularly inspected, including before and after each scene, and said that for safety reasons, nothing is supposed to be in front of a prop gun when filming. It’s unclear whether all of these safety protocols were followed in this case.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene after the incident, and an investigation is underway. So far, no charges have been filed.