New Mexico state regulators faulted producers of the movie “Rust” in a report Wednesday that said the film management’s indifference to dangers involved in handling guns on set had led to the death of the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
The state issued a $136,793 penalty on the producers, the maximum allowed under state law.
The agency, the Occupational Health & Safety Bureau, which is part of the New Mexico Environment Department, said the production company managers knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed and failed to take corrective action.
The agency issued a “willful-serious” citation, the most severe, against the production company.
“Rust Movie Productions, LLC was cited for the plain indifference to the recognized hazards associated with the use of firearms on set that resulted in a fatality, severe injury, and unsafe working conditions,” it said.
A spokesman for the company, Stefan Friedman, said that while it appreciated the agency’s “time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Halyna’s family.”
Ms. Hutchins, 42, was shot and killed on set in New Mexico on Oct. 21 during the rehearsal for a scene that required the actor Alec Baldwin to draw an old-fashioned revolver from a shoulder holster. The gun went off, discharging a bullet that killed Ms. Hutchins and injured Joel Souza, the film’s director.
The producers, including Mr. Baldwin, have been named in several lawsuits seeking damages. But their lawyers have denied they were behaving recklessly and Mr. Baldwin has said that he was not responsible for Ms. Hutchins’s death, since he had been assured that the gun did not contain any live ammunition and because he was not responsible for checking the ammunition or for firearm safety on the set. A lawyer for Mr. Baldwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the workplace report.
The sheriff’s office in Santa Fe has been investigating the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting, but no charges have been filed, and it still remains unclear why live bullets were on the film set and how one of them got into the gun that Mr. Baldwin was handling. Juan Rios, a spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, said investigators were waiting for “the results of the FBI fire arm and ballistic tests. Once all investigative materials are collected the sheriff’s investigation will be forwarded to the Santa Fe district attorney’s office for review.”
In February, Ms. Hutchins’s family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in New Mexico against crew members and producers, including Mr. Baldwin, accusing the defendants of reckless conduct and cost-cutting measures that endangered the crew, including failing to follow basic industry standard safety checks and gun safety rules. In a statement following the New Mexico regulators report, Brian Panish, a lawyer for Mr. Hutchins, said, the report had “shed some light on the workplace safety issues that plagued Rust and led to the tragic and fatal events” of last October.
In the report, the New Mexico agency said that the production company had not followed national guidelines on firearms safety, despite a commitment to do so. Those guidelines, it said, required that live ammunition never be brought on set; that safety meetings take place daily when firearms are being used; and that a firearm should never be pointed at anyone except after consultation with safety officials. “By failing to follow these practices, an avoidable loss of life occurred,” the investigation concluded.
The report said management had not done enough to address concerns after employees reported feeling unsafe with how weapons were being handled. It cited earlier incidents during production when a shotgun was left unattended, and two firearms had misfired.
Understand What Happened on the Set of ‘Rust’
A fatal shooting. On Oct. 21, Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene that involved a revolver on the set of the movie “Rust.” The weapon fired, hitting Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer, and Joel Souza, the film’s director. Ms. Hutchins died as a result of the incident.
The investigation — which the bureau said had involved 14 interviews, the review of 566 documents and had taken up 1,560 hours of staff time — raised questions about the role of the film’s armorer, who is typically responsible for storage, maintenance and handling of firearms and ammunition. On the set of “Rust,” the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was also performing a second role as a props assistant, and the report said that managers did not address her concerns that she did not have time to perform her armorer duties properly .
“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,” James Kenney, the New Mexico environment cabinet secretary, said in a statement. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”