The production company behind “The Walking Dead,” Stalwart Films LLC, has been hit with the maximum fine from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for the death of stuntman John Bernecker last year.
The OSHA issued a “serious citation” and proposed the maximum amount of penalties — $12,675 — “for the company’s failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards.”
“This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry,” OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer said in a press release Friday. “The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.”
“This was a tragic and terrible accident,” Stalwart Films said in a statement to TheWrap on Friday. “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.”
In response to the decision, Bernecker’s mother Susan said in a statement Saturday, “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. 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. I intend 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.”
Bernecker’s attorney Jeff Harris added, “We have been waiting for the OSHA investigation to conclude so that we can proceed with civil litigation. 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.”
The tragedy on “The Walking Dead” set last summer saw the death of Bernecker, 33, who suffered blunt-force trauma injuries that he sustained in a fall while filming. OSHA investigated the filming location in Senoia, Georgia, and found that Bernecker fell more than 20 feet.
Stalwart Films has 15 days to comply or contest the findings with OSHA, the press release said.
“The Walking Dead” held a tribute to Bernecker during its premiere event last fall. The show returns to AMC in February.