The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined The Walking Dead's production company Stalwart Films $12,675 for "failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards" as part of the accidental death of stuntman John Bernecker, as reported by Variety.
“This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry,” said OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer. “The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.”
Stalwart responded with their own statment addressing OSHA's citation.
“This was a tragic and terrible accident. We take the safety of our employees extremely seriously on all of our sets and comply with - and frequently exceed - industry safety standards. We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response.”
The accident occured in July when Bernecker was filming a stunt for The Walking Dead's eighth season. According to assistant director Matthew Goodwin in Coweta County Sheriffs' incident report, the stuntment didn't fall far enough away from a balcony, and landed outside a safety cushion and onto concrete. The stuntman was airlifted to An Atlanta medical facility, but succumbed to his injuries the following day.
An on-site medic rendered aid immediately, and Bernecker was airlifted to an Atlanta medical center, where he was placed on a ventilator. His family opted to turn the ventilator off the following day. Many of the main cast offered their condolences to Bernecker’s family via social media shortly after he died.
Following OSHA's announcement of a fine, the mother of the fallen stuntman, Susan Bernecker spoke to Deadline about her intention to "seek justice for John and to ensure that no other parent with a child working in the film and television industry suffers this kind of heartbreak."
“There are no words to describe the loss of my son, John, who was a highly professional, veteran stuntman with a remarkable passion for life,” she said in a statement. “He was very respected and loved in the film industry. This tragedy has changed our family forever and has left us with many questions that deserve answers.”
The Bernecker family has retained Jeff. R Harris, who represented the parents of Sarah Jones regarding the Midnight Rider accidental death case.
“We have been waiting for the OSHA investigation to conclude so that we can proceed with civil litigation,” Harris said. “We are hopeful that the John Bernecker case will elevate safety standards in the film and television industry so that stunt-related tragedies can be avoided in the future.”
There has been no development on the death of a stunt driver while filming Deadpool 2 in Canada.