LOS ANGELES — The chief lighting technician for “Rust” filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the movie’s producers, actor Alec Baldwin and other members of the crew, accusing them of failing to follow safety protocols that would have prevented the fatal shooting of the film’s cinematographer.
Serge Svetnoy, 63, the gaffer on the set, is the first crew member to take legal action against Rust Movie Productions LLC for the Oct. 21 incident that caused the death of Halyna Hutchins and the wounding of director Joel Souza, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The general negligence lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The complaint names the film’s producers, armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, first assistant director Dave Halls, property master Sarah Zachry and weapons provider Seth Kenney as defendants, according to the newspaper. The suit was filed in Los Angeles because Svetnoy and at least one of the producers live in L.A.
The lawsuit described the chain of possession of people who handled the Colt .45 revolver and accused each person of failing to properly check the gun, the New York Times reported. According to the lawsuit, Zachry, the film’s prop master, handed the gun to Gutierrez Reed, who loaded it. Then, the lawsuit stated, Halls “failed to thoroughly and properly inspect it” before declaring it safe to handle.
Svetnoy said he was standing 6 or 7 feet away from Baldwin on the set of the film at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico as the crew prepared for a scene, The New York Times reported. Baldwin’s character drew the revolver from his shoulder holster and pointed it in the “general direction” of the camera, according to court documents.
According to the lawsuit, when the gun was discharged, it was the “loudest gunshot that he has ever experienced on a movie set.”
“He felt a strange and terrifying whoosh of what felt like pressurized air from his right,” the lawsuit alleges. “He felt what he believed was gunpowder and other residual materials from the gun directly strike the right side of his face and scratch the lenses of the eyeglasses he was wearing.”
Svetnoy and Hutchins had been friends for more than five years and had worked together on nine film productions, the Los Angeles Times reported. Both were from Ukraine and spent holidays together with their families, the newspaper reported. Svetnoy had given Hutchins the Ukrainian nickname “Galla.”
“I still cannot believe that she is not longer with us,” Svetnoy said Wednesday afternoon during a news conference at his attorney’s office in Beverly Hills, California. “What a tragedy and injustice when a person loses her life on film set while making art.”
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s detectives are still investigating key details of the shooting, the Los Angeles Times reported. They are also trying to determine who brought live ammunition onto the movie set, which is a violation of film production safety protocols, and who loaded at least one live bullet into the revolver used by Baldwin.
According to the lawsuit, Svetnoy held Hutchins and tried to keep her calm, Variety reported.
“As he held her, he noticed that the hand placed behind her back was becoming wet with her blood,” the lawsuit states.
The key medic, Cherlyn Schaefer, arrived within minutes, and she and Svetnoy rolled Hutchins over to inspect her wound, according to Variety. An entry wound was found near Hutchins’ right armpit.
“The next 20-30 minutes felt like the longest of plaintiff’s life as he tried to aid and comfort Ms. Hutchins, watching helplessly as her consciousness faded inexorably away,” the lawsuit states.
A lawyer for Baldwin did not immediately comment on the suit, The New York Times reported.
Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, had previously issued a statement that said safety was their client’s No. 1 priority on set, adding that she had no idaa where the live rounds came from, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Hannah was hired for two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” the statement read. “She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department.”
Zachry and a lawyer for Halls, Lisa Torraco, did not immediately respond to requests for comment, according to The New York Times. Torraco said in a television interview that checking the gun was not Halls’ job.
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