'Rust' producers to pay $100,000 safety fine after shooting

AFP / Sante Fe County Sheriff's Office

Producers of the Western movie "Rust" agreed to pay a $100,000 (AED 367,000) civil fine for "serious" workplace safety breaches after fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on set in 2021.

Last year, New Mexico's worker safety bureau 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 used 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 (AED 502,441), according to the OHSB.

"Our top priority has always been resuming production and completing this film so we can honour 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 armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has criticised the film's producers for failing to provide enough time for firearms training. She told the OHSB on December 7 that 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 December 20 Gutierrez-Reed's requests for extra armourer 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.

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