New Mexico issues fine in Rust shooting incident

If you’re waiting for news of any possible charges by the police in the shooting death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust, you’ll need to continue waiting. Today’s report deals with a fine being issued by the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau against Rust Movie Productions. The bureau had been conducting its own lengthy investigation into the shooting in parallel with the law enforcement investigations which are still ongoing. The bureau cited numerous severe violations of on-set safety protocols, what were described as “obvious hazards” to workers on the set, and a failure by management to address those hazards. The six-figure fine being imposed is also separate from any potential criminal penalties that might be imposed if the law enforcement investigation points in the same direction.

New Mexico workplace safety regulators on Wednesday issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of “Rust” where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October 2021 by actor and producer Alec Baldwin.

New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau said Rust Movie Productions must pay $139,793, and distributed a scathing narrative of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set prior to the fatal shooting. The bureau also documented gun safety complaints from crew members that went unheeded and said weapons specialists were not allowed to make decisions about additional safety training.

The failures being described in the bureau’s report largely match up with complaints that were previously raised in the various lawsuits that have been brought against Baldwin’s production company and its management, but more details have been added. The picture being painted in this report is one of massive incompetence at a minimum and potentially criminal misconduct in some instances.

The report notes that there had been two previous accidental discharges of rifles on the set prior to Hutchins being killed. The site safety coordinator witnessed both discharges but took no investigative, corrective, or disciplinary actions after the incidents. They also note that it was the same safety coordinator, David Halls (who was also an assistant director), who handed Baldwin the revolver prior to the fatal shooting. Neither the armorer nor any of her assistants were on set when the revolver was loaded and handed to the actor as is required.

The investigation also revealed that the armorer. Hannah Gutierrez Reed, had so many restrictions placed on her budget that she was only allowed to work a total of eight days over the course of the production, having to serve in “lighter duties” such as being a props assistant on other days. Further, some required safety meetings did not take place every day when weapons were deployed on the set, though some were held. The investigators concluded that Hutchins’ death “could have been prevented” were it not for the massive failures in safety protocols.

This report may not have any impact on the criminal investigation, but you can expect it to be cited in the aforementioned lawsuits. The picture is becoming increasingly clear at this point. Alec Baldwin really did “fire” the revolver, albeit unintentionally, by manipulating the hammer. And his production company was cutting a lot of corners to keep costs down, apparently to the detriment of maintaining a safe work environment during the filming.

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