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Producers of 'Rust' have been handed the "maximum fine allowable" for violating firearm safety procedures.
The New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) launched an investigation into the production following the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died in October 2021 when a gun being held by lead actor Alec Baldwin went off and they have now issued the "highest level of citation" to those in charge of the movie, as well as a fine of $136, 793.
The OHSB said in their report: "This is the highest level of citation and maximum fine allowable by state law in New Mexico.
“The report concludes that Rust Movie Productions, LLC management knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set and demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety by failing to review work practices and take corrective action.
“OHSB found that Rust willfully violated the Occupational Health and Safety Act by demonstrating plain indifference to the safety of employees and exposing those employees to the serious hazards associated with firearm use.
“Members of 'Rust' management knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set and acted with plain indifference to employee safety by failing to review work practices, adhere to film industry standards for firearm safety, and take corrective action.”
According to TMZ, the report highlighted two other misfires that had occured during filming prior to the fatal tragedy, and the OHSB felt they went largely unaddressed by the official safety point person among the crew, who they named as assistant director Dave Halls.
The document noted several crew members expressed concern about these misfires, as well as other weapons-related issues, but no training or other corrective measures were put in place to address the problems.
The report also accused Halls of breaking protocol by handling the weapon and passing it to Alec without consulting a specialist either during or after the gun was loaded, and suggested producers had no system in place to ensure real bullets did not end up on set.
A representative for the OHSB said: "Management was provided with multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so. As a result of these failures, director Joel Souza and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins were severely injured. Halyna Hutchins succumbed to her injuries."
Under federal requirements, Rust Movie Productions, LLC have been given 15 days to pay the penalty and provide OHSB with certification of corrective action, or alternatively, to contest the citation with the Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission.
In February, the cinematographer's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Alec - who has insisted he didn't pull the trigger on the firearm - seven other producers, and various crew members including armorers Hannah Gutierrez Reed and Seth Kenney.
A criminal investigation is also still ongoing.