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'The Walking Dead' stuntman Jon Bernecker dead after on-set accident

A scene from the seventh season of AMC's "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)
A scene from the seventh season of AMC's "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

John Bernecker, a stuntman on AMC's "The Walking Dead," has died from injuries suffered on the show's set in Georgia. He was 33.

After the Wednesday afternoon fall, Bernecker was flown to the Atlanta Medical Center, where he died at 6:30 p.m., Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk told The Times on Friday. 

Variety reported that Bernecker fell more than 20 feet from a balcony onto a concrete floor, suffering a head injury, and immediately was transported by helicopter to the hospital. An assistant director told police the stuntman missed a safety cushion "just by inches" and tried to stop his fall "by grabbing onto the railing with both hands" right after he began falling, TMZ reported Friday. 

The death, from blunt force trauma, was ruled accidental, said Hawk, who added that the coroner's office and sheriff's department both had closed their cases.

"We are saddened to report that John Bernecker, a talented stuntman for 'The Walking Dead' and numerous other television shows and films, suffered serious injuries from a tragic accident on set," AMC said in a statement to several outlets Thursday, before news of Bernecker's death was made public.

"He was immediately transported to an Atlanta hospital, and we have temporarily shut down production. We are keeping John and his family in our thoughts and prayers."

Bernecker had an extensive career as a stunt performer, appearing in recent films including "Get Out,' "Logan" and "The Fate of the Furious."

His death is the latest tragedy to strike a film set mid-project.

During the filming of "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" in September 2015, stuntwoman Olivia Jackson suffered extensive injuries after a motorcycle accident involving a metal camera arm. Jackson’s injuries included a severed artery in her neck, a degloved face, several nerves torn from her spinal column and arm injuries so severe it led to eventual amputation. She spent two weeks in a medically induced coma.

In December, several months after Jackson's accident on set, another crew member on "Resident Evil" was killed during filming. Ricardo Cornelius died from injuries suffered when a U.S. Army Hummer slipped while a team was manually rotating it and pinned Cornelius beneath it.

A 2015 story from The Times examined the circumstances surrounding the increased number of fatalities during filming in recent years, with some industry experts blaming the need to get increasingly dramatic footage in order to stay competitive.

"It's truly remarkable to me that production companies can use ultra-advanced technology to make spectacular films but too often they won't spend the modest resources necessary to make sure their workers are not injured or killed on the job," David Michaels, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's assistant secretary of labor said in 2015.

Deadline reported Friday morning that both OSHA and SAG-AFTRA have opened investigations into the circumstances surrounding Bernecker's death.

"The Walking Dead" has filmed in Georgia since the show's inception in 2010. The state's generous tax incentives have sparked an influx of movie and television productions opting to film in Georgia.

There are over three dozen projects currently filming in Georgia, according to the state website, including television series "The Gospel of Kevin" and "Halt and Catch Fire," as well as 2019 feature film "Godzilla: King of the Monsters."  

The Gregg Allman biopic "Midnight Rider" also was filming in Georgia when a tragic 2014 train accident killed crew member Sarah Jones, resulting in involuntary manslaughter charges against the film's director, Randall Miller.

Jones' parents are embroiled in a civil trial with railroad company CSX over charges of negligence in her death. Proceedings are underway at the Chatham County Courthouse in Savanna, Ga.

SAG-AFTRA, OSHA and AMC did not immediately respond to The Times' requests for comment on Bernecker's death Friday morning.

UPDATES

11:28 a.m.: This article was updated to include information regarding film industry deaths.

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