Walking Dead Producers Hit With Max OSHA Fine For Stuntman's Death

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2010-10-30
The Walking Dead
Rick attacks Negan in The Walking Dead Season 8 premiere. AMC

OSHA has fined the Walking Dead producers over $10,000 for the on-set death of stuntman John Bernecker in July of last year. The proposed penalties total the maximum allowable fine of $12,675.

OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) also issued a serious citation “for the company’s failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards.” Stalwart Films now has 15 days to contest the findings or comply.

Bernecker was fatally injured after falling more than 20 feet onto a concrete floor, missing the pads by “just inches,” according to second assistant director Matthew Goodwin. Bernecker had also told actor Austin Amelio that he had done “a few” high fall stunts before, but “never this high up.” The actor stated that Bernecker “seemed a little nervous.”

According to Goodwin, Bernecker did not appear to separate fully from the balcony. He appeared to try and stop the fall by grabbing the railing with both hands, but momentum drove him into the bottom of the balcony and caused him to release his hold.

A sheriff’s report indicated that it took a full half-hour for a medevac helicopter to arrive for Benecker, who was declared brain-dead three hours later.

“This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry,” said OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer in a press release. “The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.”

A SAG-AFTRA representative has previously said the union is investigating the incident as well.

News of OSHA’s maximum fine comes in the wake of a season 8 ratings slump that has seen producer David Alpert stepping to the show’s defense. “I don't think in any way the brand has lost its relevance in general," he said to Variety, even as fan ratings for episodes on iMDB continue to plummet.

Showrunner Scott Gimple echoed Alpert’s sentiments in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, stating, "I'm very confident of a tenth season… I'm confident of beyond a tenth season — we're building toward the future.”

 

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