A prop gun fired by actor and producer Alec Baldwin on a New Mexico set for the film “Rust” killed his director of photography and injured the director on Thursday, according to officials.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The movie's director, Joel Souza, 48, was taken by ambulance to a medical center.
It was not clear if Baldwin was performing at the time of the shooting or how many rounds were fired, and little was known about the weapon.
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Prop guns fire blanks, gunpowder charges that produce a flash and a bang but not a hard projectile. But when the trigger is pulled, the paper or plastic wadding is ejected from the barrel with enough force that it can be lethal at close range.
Hollywood weapons expert Larry Zanoff told NBC News that when firearms are used as props in the television and movie industry, only blank cartridges that do not hold bullets are allowed on set. Zanoff said there is a minimum safety distance of 20 feet and "nothing" should be in front of the muzzle when filming is occurring.
“We have a series of guidelines in the industry that govern the use of blank firearms and ammunition on set,” he said. “So my question is of course, firstly, was that protocol followed?”
Hutchins' shocking on-set death immediately drew comparisons to the untimely death of Brandon Lee.
In 1993, Brandon Lee, 28, son of the late martial-arts star Bruce Lee, died after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie "The Crow." The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.
Lee's death was the last recorded accidental death by a prop gun on a movie set.
A verified Twitter account for Brandon — run by his sister, Shannon Lee, according to the account's bio — tweeted early Friday that "No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period."
In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the CBS television series "Cover Up."
In 1982, Actor Vic Morrow, 53, and child actors Myca Dinh Le, 7, and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, 6, were killed in a helicopter crash on the set of "Twilight Zone: The Movie." An explosion during a chase scene sent the helicopter crashing to the ground.
Their deaths prompted increased safety regulations for stunts and also resulted in a trial in which director John Landis and others on the production team were ultimately acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges.
And while filming accidents resulting in death or injury of a big movie or TV star is rare, a 2016 Associated Press report found that, since 1990, at least 43 people have died on sets in the U.S. and more than 150 have been left with life-altering injuries.
In 2007, a special-effects technician died during production of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight,” when his vehicle hit a tree at the end of a test run-through.
In 2011, an explosion on the set of "The Expendables 2" filming in Bulgaria, killed a stuntman and left another seriously injured.
In 2015, on the set of "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," a stunt woman was involved in a motorcycle crash that ultimately led to her arm needing to be amputated. Later, on the same production, a stunt man was crushed to death under a Hummer.
In 2017, during the filming of "Deadpool 2," stuntwoman Joi Harris died after she lost control of her motorcycle and crashed through the window of a building in downtown Vancouver.