Investigations underway after stuntman dies on 'Walking Dead' set; production resumes

Veteran stuntman dies in Coweta Co. during 'Walking Dead' filming

ATLANTA - A stuntman who was seriously injured in an accident on the set of The Walking Dead Wednesday, has died. 

According to film industry journal Deadline, John Bernecker suffered head injuries when fell about 30 feet to a concrete floor. After the accident, Bernecker was transported to Atlanta Medical Center. Official word of his death came Friday morning.

Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk says Bernecker died from his injuries at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday. 

A statement from AMC, the network which airs the popular TV show, issued this statement Friday night:

“John Bernecker's family has decided that he will be removed from life support, following organ donation. We are deeply saddened by this loss and our hearts and prayers are with John’s family, friends and colleagues during this extremely difficult time.” 

“Our production is heartbroken by the tragic loss of John Bernecker," said Executuve Producer Scott Gimple. "John's work on The Walking Dead and dozens of other movies and shows will continue to entertain and excite audiences for generations. We are grateful for his contributions, and all of us send our condolences, love, and prayers to John's family and friends.”

On the following Monday after his death, AMC confirmed to industry publication Deadline that production for Season 8 of the series had resumed.

The video below shows some of Bernecker's stunt work over the past year, much of it produced in metro Atlanta.

 

 

Two separate investigations -- one from SAG-AFTRA, and a second from OSHA -- have been launched into the accident. 

OSHA spokesman Mike D'Aquino told 11Alive's Chris Hopper that their investigation could take up to six months to complete, but would not elaborate, nor provide any additional comments on Friday. 

Later Friday night, SAG-AFTRA released their own statement saying: 

“SAG-AFTRA offers its deepest condolences to the family of John Bernecker, an accomplished stunt performer who passed away today after a fall on the set of The Walking Dead in Georgia. This tragic and untimely loss of a member of the SAG-AFTRA family is heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with his loved ones and his friends and colleagues in the Georgia production community.

“The safety of our members is paramount. We will work with the authorities and closely monitor their investigations into this tragic incident."

Bernecker was a veteran stuntman with many film and television credits in his background including recent local work in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, 24: Legacy, The War With Grandpa, The Fate of the Furious, Black Panther, Rampage, and Escape Plan 2: Hades

Stunt coordinator Pete Mitchell spoke to 11Alive News and said it's a safe business. Precautions are taken, stuntmen and women are highly trained, but sometimes, accidents happen.

"This is not a daredevil world, it's a stunt world," said Marietta-based stunt coordinator and medic Pete Mitchell. "There are calculations, there are percentages, there are things out there to make it safe. We're not trying to hurt ourselves."

Like Mitchell, Paul Lacovara has also worked as a stuntman on major productions for the past 17 years. 

"There's always a risk with what we do, but that's part of our job -- but our job is not to go in and risk our life unnecessarily," he said. "Every day we get hurt, every day we get bumped and bruised, but we're not going in thinking we're going to lose our lives." 

Bernecker's death is the first one for a stuntman in the United States in 17 years. But while Lacovara says it's too early to know what led to Bernecker's death, he knows that safety is always a top priority in the business. 

"Our whole job is about safety, because if we're not safe, we're not coming home," he said.

Condolences for Bernecker have started to pour in from actors and others who have worked with Bernecker on The Walking Dead and other productions -- including actors Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, David Morrissey, Lauren Cohen, and directors Paul Feig, Larry Teng and Jordan Peele: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walking Dead, now in its 8th season, films many episodes in Senoia, Ga., and other parts of metro Atlanta. There is no word as to when production will resume. 

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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