By Andrew Hay
(Reuters) – Producers of the Western movie “Rust” on Friday said they had agreed to pay a $100,000 civil fine for “serious” workplace safety breaches prior to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on a New Mexico film set in 2021.
New Mexico’s worker safety bureau last year levied its maximum possible fine against Rust Movie Productions (RMP) for what it called the firm’s “plain indifference” to hazards from weapons mishandling and accidental firearms discharges on set.
Hutchins was killed when actor Alec Baldwin fired a live round from a gun he was using during a rehearsal. Director Joel Souza was injured.
“RMP violated workplace safety laws by exposing employees to being struck by discharged rounds or projectiles when firearms were used on the set,” the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) said in a statement.
Under the settlement, RMP’s fine marked the largest workplace safety penalty in over a decade in New Mexico but was reduced from an original citation of $136,793, according to the OHSB.
“Our top priority has always been resuming production and completing this film so we can honor the life and work of Halyna Hutchins,” Melina Spadone, a lawyer for RMP said in a statement. “Settling this case rather than litigating is how we can best move forward.”
Rust’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has criticized the film’s producers for failing to provide enough time for firearms training. She told the OHSB on Dec. 7 Baldwin’s lack of knowledge and “poor form” using a revolver may have led to the accidental discharge that killed Hutchins.
Rust Line Producer Gabrielle Pickle told the agency on Dec. 20 Gutierrez-Reed’s requests for extra armorer days were granted.
Gutierrez-Reed, who mistakenly loaded a live round into the gun Baldwin fired, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. At her first court appearance on Friday her lawyer said she would plead not guilty. Baldwin on Thursday pleaded not guilty to the same charge.
(Reporting By Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Chris Reese)