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Cinematographer Killed, Director Injured After Alec Baldwin Discharged Prop Gun on Set of Indie ‘Rust’

The incident is under investigation, the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office says

Tragedy struck the New Mexico set of the indie Western “Rust” on Thursday after actor-producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun that accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

Hutchins, a 42-year-old cinematographer, died Thursday in the incident caused by a prop firearm that was fired by Baldwin on the set of “Rust” just south of Santa Fe, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department told TheWrap. No charges have been filed but the matter is under an active investigation.

“Rust” director Joel Souza was also injured and was receiving care in a local hospital.

“According to investigators, it appears that the scene being filmed involved the use of a prop firearm when it was discharged,” the Santa Fe sheriff’s office said in a statement to media earlier on Thursday. “Detectives are investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged.”

“The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today’s tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna’s family and loved ones.  We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department’s investigation. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event,” representatives for the films production company, Rust Movie Productions LLC, said in a statement provided to TheWrap.

“The DGA is incredibly saddened to hear of the tragic passing of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and the serious injuries sustained by DGA director Joel Souza in an on-set incident in New Mexico today. We await further details and a full investigation. Our hearts go out to Halyna’s family, to Joel, and to everyone impacted,” the Director’s Guild said in a statement.

A producer for the film said the gun was loaded with blanks and somehow misfired.

“Production has been halted for the time being,” the producer said in a statement to ABC News. “The safety of our cast and crew remains our top priority.”

Baldwin stars in “Rust” along with Jensen Ackles of “Supernatural.” Baldwin is co-producing the film under his El Dorado Pictures. Joel Souza is writing and directing. Production began earlier this month at Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, just south of Santa Fe.

“We received the devastating news this evening, that one of our members, Halyna Hutchins, the Director of Photography on a production called ‘Rust’ in New Mexico died from injuries sustained on the set. The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event. This is a terrible loss, and we mourn the passing of a member of our Guild’s family,” John Lindley, the president of the cinematographer’s guild, and Rebecca Rhine, the executive director, said in a statement.

Sheriff deputies responding to a 911 call arrived on set around 2 p.m. MT. Hutchins was then airlifted by helicopter to University of New Mexico Hospital in critical condition, the Santa Fe sheriff’s office said.

Souza was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. His condition was uncertain.

Alec Baldwin, in full costume, had earlier Thursday posted a photo near the set of “Rust.”

Blanks can still be dangerous and even fatal when fired at close range. Firearms thought to be loaded with blanks but loaded with other materials have also been deadly on sets.

Brandon Lee, an actor and the son of the martial-arts star Bruce Lee, died in 1993 when he was shot on the North Carolina set of “The Crow.” An investigation discovered the partial cartridge of a .44 bullet that should have been removed from the gun dislodged and was projected 15-20 feet toward Lee as a blank was fired.

Actor Jon-Erik Hexum of the CBS series “Cover-Up” died in 1984 after firing a gun loaded with blanks at his head, not knowing the dangers.