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The on-set medic who was summoned to help cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after she was mortally wounded on the set of the western “Rust” has filed a lawsuit against several crew members and the film’s production entity.
After actor Alec Baldwin shot Hutchins and director Joel Souza on October 21 while rehearsing a scene that required the use of a revolver, Cherlyn Schaefer was called to the church building set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Schaefer tended to the gunshot wound and supplied Hutchins with oxygen until she could be airlifted to an area hospital where she would later succumb to her injuries.
In the negligence lawsuit, Schaefer alleges she has suffered “tremendous shock, trauma and severe emotional distress” as a result of Hutchins’ death, and as such has been incapable of returning to work, NBC News reported, adding that she is the fourth member of the film’s crew to file suit in the aftermath of the tragedy, the nature and circumstances of which are not yet wholly defined.
The suit alleges negligence on the part of several crew members who were responsible for the handling of firearms and ammunition and it reportedly names a menagerie of co-defendants, as noted by Law & Crime: Rust Movie Productions, LLC (the movie company); armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed; prop master Sarah Zachry; assistant director David Halls; PDQ Arm & Prop, LLC (the supplier of the film’s ammunition); Seth Kenney (PDQ’s owner); Bonanza Creek Film Locations, LLC; Bonanza Creek Ranch, LLC (the location where the shooting occurred); and Bonanza Creek representative Shannon Hughes.
The person who actually held the revolver – actor Alec Baldwin – when the hammer either dropped on its own or was manually fired, is curiously not named as a defendant in the suit. The lawsuit refers to him as a “non-party,” according to Law & Crime.
The lawsuit also reportedly claims incorrectly in one section that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, was the victim who died when in fact she wasn’t the victim nor was she on-set at the time.
“Non-party Alec Baldwin discharged the gun killing Hannah Gutierrez Reed,” reads line 66 of the case, which was filed in Santa Fe County’s First Judicial District Court. The error is corrected later in the suit.
Serge Svetnoy, the film’s gaffer, and Mamie Mitchell, the script supervisor, have previously filed suit. Both were in the room when the gun was fired, and each allege they suffered irreparable physical and emotional damages.
The producers have argued that the shooting was a workplace incident and as such should be handled within the guidelines of the New Mexico workers compensation system. Schaefer’s suit counters that and alleges she was not directly employed by the production, but rather by Media Services Processing LLC.
Armorer Gutierrez Reed has also filed suit against Kenney, alleging that he was to blame for the shooting because he supplied her with both dummy and live rounds without alerting her to the distinction between the two, though Schaefer’s lawsuit argues that as the armorer, Gutierrez Reed should have recognized the difference between the allegedly reloaded rounds and the dummy rounds on set — despite their similar appearance.
“Dummy rounds look like live rounds, except for a small hole in the side of the casing that identifies them as inoperable,” the lawsuit alleges. “In a dummy round, one or more BBs are placed inside in place of the powder.”
“When a dummy round is shaken, the BB(s) make nose,” the allegations continue. “A live round does not make noise when shaken.”
The lawsuit also makes similar allegations against Zachry and Halls, claiming that Zachry in particular “shook the box of ammunition and discovered what she believed to be live rounds because they did not make the nose a dummy round makes when shaken.”
On behalf of the plaintiff Schaefer, the suit details her actions, including her calling for additional responders and for a med-evac by helicopter.
“Cherlyn Schaefer fought desperately to save Halyna Hutchins’ life, putting pressure on her wounds, giving her oxygen, checking her vitals,” the lawsuit notes. “Despite Cherlyn Schaefer’s extensive efforts to stabilize and save the life of Halyna Hutchins, Halyna Hutchins later died of her wounds.”
In all, the lawsuit alleges 10 counts including negligence, intentional inflection of emotional distress, intentional spoliation of evidence, as well as negligent hiring, training and supervision, and products liability.
Halyna Hutchins’ estate has reportedly taken preliminary steps toward a lawsuit of their own, but they have yet to file.
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