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American News Apr 20, 2022 10:52 PM EST

New Mexico hits 'Rust' film production company with maximum fine for firearms safety failures

New Mexico workplace safety regulators fined Rust Movie Productions $136,793 on Wednesday for firearms safety failures.

New Mexico hits 'Rust' film production company with maximum fine for firearms safety failures
Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

On Wednesday, New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued a hefty fine against the film production company behind the ill-fated "Rust" movie for firearms safety failures on the set where actor and producer Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

According to the Associated Press, New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau fined Rust Movie Productions $136,793, the maximum possible fine.

The bureau also reportedly issued a "scathing narrative of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols," which included testimony that the production’s managers took little to no action to address two previous misfires leading up to the fatal October shooting.

They also documented numerous gun safety complaints brought forth by crew members that they say went unnoticed, and said that weapons specialists were not allowed to make decisions regarding additional safety training.

"What we had, based on our investigators’ findings, was a set of obvious hazards to employees regarding the use of firearms and management’s failure to act upon those obvious hazards," Bob Genoway, bureau chief for occupational safety, told the AP.

On October 21, 2021, while setting up for a scene at inside a church on the ranch set in the outskirts of Santa Fe, Baldwin pointed a gun at Hutchins which fired, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

In a December interview, Baldwin said that the gun fired without him pulling the trigger.

The new occupational safety report confirmed that the large-caliber revolver was handed to Baldwin by assistant director David Halls without the consultant of on-set weapons specialists neither before or after the gun had been loaded.

The bureau’s regulators noted that Halls also served as a safety coordinator, and that he had witnessed the two prior accidental discharges, and that he and other managers took no effort to address the misfires.

"The Safety Coordinator was present on set and took no direct action to address safety concerns," the report stated. "Management was provided with multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so. As a result of these failures, Director Joel Souza and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were severely injured. Halyna Hutchins succumbed to her injuries."

A Rust Movie Productions spokesperson said that they would be disputing the bureau’s findings and sanction.

"While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal," said Stefan Friedman.

According to the Associated Press, a potential appeal would be heard first by the state’s occupational health and safety commission.

Following the shooting, at least five lawsuits have been brought forth, including a wrongful death lawsuit brought forth by Hutchins' family, which alleges a "callous" disregard in the face of safety complaints on the set.

During the 1,500 staff hours of investigation, it was discovered that production managers had strictly limited resources for the small team responsible for weapons on set, and had also failed to address concerns about a shotgun that had been left unattended twice.

Armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed was reportedly limited to eight paid days as an armorer to oversee weapons and training, and is both a plaintiff and defendant in lawsuits against the production.

In a statement Wednesday, her attorney highlighted findings that the armorer "was not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively," according to the Associated Press.

The investigators also noted that the production company did not have processes in place, as required by industry safety protocols, to ensure that live rounds of ammunition were not brought on set, and found that safety meetings were not conducted on every day that weapon usage occurred.

James Kenney, secretary of the Environment Department that oversees occupational safety, said that separate investigations into potential criminal charges are still underway, and noted that the bureau had not received any complaints from cast members prior to the shooting.

"This tragedy, this loss of life, it could have been prevented, and we want people to say something," he said.

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