A state agency's report found that producers on the Western ignored both industry safety protocols and concerns from their own crew prior to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
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The New Mexico state government on Wednesday released the findings of its months-long investigation into the fatal shooting on the set of the Western film Rust, and issued the maximum possible fine of $136,793 to the film's production company for not following proper safety protocols.

"There were several management failures and more than sufficient evidence to suggest that if standard industry practices were followed, the fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins and the serious injury to Joel Souza would not have occurred," said James Kenney, secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, in a video announcing the fine. "Through our investigation, we determined that Rust Production's failures were both serious and willful. To this end, we issued the maximum possible fine of $136,793. This fine was assessed against the legal entity Rust Production LLC, not specific individuals."

On Oct. 21 of last year, a prop gun being wielded in rehearsals by Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin discharged a live round that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. Baldwin had been told the gun was "cold," or unloaded. In an interview with ABC News in December, the actor insisted he didn't pull the trigger. A day after the shooting, the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau within the New Mexico Environment Department initiated an investigation into the incident, which included inspections of the set and many interviews with crew people involved in the production.

The set of the Western film 'Rust'
The set of the Western film 'Rust'
| Credit: Jae C Hong/AP/Shutterstock

The bureau's report found multiple instances of Rust producers ignoring crew members' safety concerns as well as industry safety standards. There were three accidental discharges on set prior to the one that killed Hutchins. Two of them occurred Oct. 16, less than a week beforehand: One when props master Sarah Zachary fired a blank round at the ground while loading a Colt. 45, and the second when Baldwin's stunt double Blake Texeira discharged a rifle (though the investigators were unable to confirm precise details of that incident). There was also an accidental use of special-effects explosives.

In the wake of these incidents, first assistant cameraperson Lane Luper resigned from the production in an email to management Oct. 20, saying that filming of gunfights "are often played very fast and loose" and "there are NO safety meetings these days."

According to the government report, "Employees stated that while safety meetings took place, they were not conducted each day firearms were used on set, and often any mention about firearms was brief and not specific." The report also cited management for not adequately responding to the concerns raised by Luper in his resignation.

"The Employer, Rust Movie Productions, LLC, demonstrated plain indifference to the hazards associated with firearms by routinely failing to practice their own safety protocols, failing to enforce adherence to safety protocols, and failing to ensure that the handling of deadly weapons was afforded the time and effort needed to keep the cast and crew safe," the report concludes, recommending a "Willful-Serious citation with penalties be issued."

Kenney said that although his department's investigation has now concluded, law enforcement's criminal investigation is still ongoing. Watch his video statement above.

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