The crew on the set of the movie “Rust” “willfully violated” safety rules and “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety” which led to the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, according to a report released Wednesday by New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health & Safety Bureau.
Gun safety procedures were not being followed on set, the film’s management team knew it and failed to correct it, the report states.
Rust Movie Productions, LLC was fined nearly $137,000 – the maximum allowed by New Mexico law – and issued the highest-level citation for their actions.
“Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety,” said Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”
The list of unearthed violations “goes on and on and on,” Kenney said in a subsequent interview with CNN.
The agency head sharply criticized Rust production management for reportedly failing to adhere to safety regulations they claimed were in place.
“They put something in motion, said that they were going to comply with it, and then never put the resources or integrity behind it in order to have it actually keep people safe,” Kenney said.
The state environment chief said another factor potentially contributing to the ultimate fatal shooting on set was the fact the set’s armorer was also tasked with other unrelated duties.
“When individuals in any occupation, but specifically [the set armorer] are given multiple duties as opposed to having separate duties with multiple people, that leaves the opportunity that people can’t get to everything in the course of their day,” said Kenney. “Safety is not something that should ever be put on the back burner. Safety should be an inherent job characteristic that every employer invests in to keep their employees safe.”
Asked if occupational safety investigators determined how a live round of ammunition made it onto a movie set, Kenney said that factor was not part of their review. Law enforcement officials have separately told CNN their criminal investigation into the shooting remains ongoing.
The report by Kenney’s team issued Wednesday faulted set management for failing to properly investigate reports of past firearms accidents, which could have helped correct deficiencies and prevent future incidents.
Bob Genoway, who oversaw the occupational safety bureau’s investigation, told CNN on Wednesday that Rust management “knew that safety wasn’t being taken seriously on set and ignored that – simply moved on with work without stopping and taking the time to make sure that gun safety was given the importance that it needed on the set.”
The film’s own documents indicated production would follow industry standards regarding firearm safety, but the production team “failed to adhere to these guidelines on set,” a release from OSHB states.
CNN has reached out to representatives for “Rust” productions for comment.
Hutchins was fatally shot last October during a rehearsal for a scene in a church at Bonanza Creek Ranch. Director Joel Souza was also injured in the shooting. Late last year, Baldwin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in a televised interview that he was rehearsing a scene where he and Hutchins were going over how she wanted to position his hand before the gun went off. He said that he never pulled the trigger and that the gun misfired.
Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas told CNN in a statement, “We are grateful to the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau for investigating this matter. We appreciate that the report exonerates Mr. Baldwin by making clear that he believed the gun held only dummy rounds and that his authority on the production was limited to approving script changes and creative casting. Mr. Baldwin had no authority over the matters that were the subject of the Bureau’s findings of violations, and we are pleased that the New Mexico authorities have clarified these critical issues. We are confident that the individuals identified in the report will be held accountable for this tragedy.”
Attorneys for the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed released a statement obtained by CNN, “Hannah Gutierrez Reed was not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively, despite her voiced concerns. Critically, OSHA also determined that production failed to call Hannah in to perform her armorer duties and inspect the firearm right before its use in the impromptu scene with Baldwin. As we have stated before, had anyone from Production called Hannah back into the church before the scene to consult with her, this tragedy would have been prevented.”
Hutchins’ widow, Matt Hutchins released the following statement through his attorney Brian Panish following the OSHB report. “We are pleased that the NM OSHA report has shed some light on the workplace safety issues that plagued Rust and led to the tragic and fatal events of Oct 21, 2021. Our own investigation has found overwhelming evidence of recklessness and negligence on the part of the Rust production team and others.”
Baldwin and others have been named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Hutchins.
In court documents filed last month, Baldwin’s attorney claims that an arbitration provision protects the actor financially from the numerous lawsuits that have been filed against him, including the wrongful death lawsuit.
Although Baldwin was a producer on the film, the documents state that he solely handled the creative aspects of the film and had nothing to do with hiring or the film’s budget and that those areas were overseen by Rust Productions LLC.