Halyna Hutchins mourned by family as investigation into 'Rust' shooting continues

Author
Newstalk ZB, CNN,
Publish Date
Mon, 25 Oct 2021, 12:34PM
A vigil is held to honor cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on October 23 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo / Getty)
A vigil is held to honor cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on October 23 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo / Getty)

Halyna Hutchins mourned by family as investigation into 'Rust' shooting continues

Author
Newstalk ZB, CNN,
Publish Date
Mon, 25 Oct 2021, 12:34PM

Family, peers and community members of Halyna Hutchins mourned the cinematographer's untimely death after the 42-year-old was killed on the film set of "Rust" from a firearm mishap.

Her husband Matthew Hutchins tweeted Friday that the loss was "enormous."

"Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words," he tweeted. "Our loss is enormous, and we ask that the media please respect my family's privacy as we process our grief. We thank everyone for sharing images and stories of her life."

In addition, her sister offered words of grief in an interview with the Kyiv Post on Friday.

"I cannot comprehend (her passing)," said Svetlana Androsovych, who currently lives in Indonesia. "I loved her very much ... I was very proud of her and she was my role model. We were always close and remained in touch, despite the distance."

"This loss is a great grief for our family, and I see how hard it is for our parents," she added. "Hopefully, time will ease our heartache."

CNN has reached out to Androsovych but not yet heard back.

The comments add to the fond memories of Hutchins, who was killed when actor and producer Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun on a film set Thursday in New Mexico.

A candlelight vigil for Hutchins brought out hundreds of mourners Saturday evening in the state.

"I would've been lucky to do another movie with a person like that," said Lane Looper, a crew member on the "Rust" film set. "She was a wonderful mom and wife and was just a wonderful soul, and I really hope more people like her exist."

The shooting occurred as the film crew was rehearsing a scene at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico. The film's assistant director, David Halls, handed a prop gun to Baldwin and yelled "cold gun," a remark meant to indicate the weapon didn't have live rounds, according to an affidavit for a search warrant for the movie set filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office and obtained by CNN affiliate KOAT.

According to the affidavit, Baldwin was handed one of three prop guns that were set up in a cart by an armorer for the movie. Halls did not know there were live rounds in the gun, the affidavit said.

When Baldwin fired the gun, a live round hit Hutchins, 42, in the chest and wounded director Joel Souza, 48, who was nearby, according to the affidavit. Hutchins was pronounced dead at the hospital after being airlifted.

Gun experts question tragedy

The shooting has raised critical questions from gun experts looking into how the tragic incident occurred.

"There's no reason to have had a firearm that was capable of discharging live ammo on the set," Steve Wolf, a firearms safety expert, told CNN on Saturday. "A prop gun is a gun that's been specifically manufactured for shooting blanks, not bullets. In fact, the bullets won't fit into a gun that's been modified properly, only blanks will fit into it.

"And that's a safeguard to ensure that live ammo is not loaded into guns that are used on set. So if you don't use the right type of gun, you're not going to get the safety benefit that's been engineered into it," Wolf said.

Before the shooting, some crew members quit over safety concerns on set -- including gun inspections and Covid-19 protocols not being followed, according to the Los Angeles Times and other media reports.

Three crew members who were on the set last weekend told the Los Angeles Times there were two accidental prop gun discharges before Thursday's fatal shooting. On October 16, Baldwin's stunt double unintentionally fired rounds after he was told the gun was "cold," two of the crew members, who witnessed the discharges, told the newspaper.

The film's production company told Deadline in a statement that it was not notified of official complaints regarding weapon or prop safety on set.

"We will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down," Rust Movie Productions, LLC said in a statement. "The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company."

CNN has made multiple attempts to reach Rust Movie Productions for comment but has not received a response.

Assistant director was subject of complaints

Halls, the assistant director on set who handed Baldwin the prop firearm, had been the subject of complaints over safety and his behavior on set during two productions in 2019, two people who worked closely with him told CNN.

The complaints against Halls include a disregard for safety protocols for weapons and pyrotechnics use, blocked fire lanes and exits, and instances of inappropriately sexual behavior in the workplace.

Maggie Goll, an IATSE Local 44 prop maker and licensed pyrotechnician, said in a statement to CNN that while working on Hulu's "Into the Dark" Anthology Series in February and May of 2019, Halls neglected to hold safety meetings and consistently failed to announce the presence of a firearm on set to the crew, as is protocol.

"The only reason the crew was made aware of a weapon's presence was because the assistant prop master demanded Dave acknowledge and announce the situation each day," Goll's statement reads.

The armorer who prepared the prop gun used by Baldwin was identified in the search warrant as Hannah Gutierrez. She had recently finished work on her first project as head armorer, she said in a September podcast interview.

"I was really nervous about it at first," Gutierrez said of working as head armorer on the set of the movie "The Old Way," starring Nicolas Cage.

"I almost didn't take the job because I wasn't sure if I was ready, but doing it, like it went really smoothly," she said in an interview on the Voices of the West podcast, which is dedicated to the Old West.

Her work as armorer ranges from teaching actors how to wear a gun belt to aiming and shooting, she said.

"I think when someone is new and not sure, that's fine. We all start somewhere," Wolf, the firearms safety expert said. "But you work under somebody's tutelage and you'll practice until you have mastery," he added.

Film production community deeply impacted by Hutchins' death

Saturday's vigil at Albuquerque Civic Plaza was organized by IATSE Local 600 and IATSE Local 480, chapters of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union -- which represents workers in various roles in the entertainment industry.

"Our entire alliance mourns this unspeakable loss with Halyna's family, friends, and the Rust crew," the union said in a statement. "Creating a culture of safety requires relentless vigilance from every one of us, day in and day out."

Local 600 created a verified GoFundMe page for Hutchins' family, and more than $160,000 had been raised as of early Sunday. Hutchins is survived by her husband and 9-year-old son, according to the page.

Many of the mourners at the vigil for Hutchins were members of the television and film industry.

During the vigil, Rebecca Stair, a location manager and a member of IATSE Local 480, told CNN she wasn't a crew member on "Rust," but knew everyone on set.

"My heart's been shaking for days, my phone has been going off with all kinds of friends who are going through something similar," Stair told CNN. "My friend who was the transport coordinator had to stay until 11 o'clock at night arranging shuttle rides home because nobody could functionally drive."

Stair became emotional discussing safety concerns in the industry and burst into tears, saying "a child should have a mother," referring to Hutchins' 9-year-old son.

Jolynne Nieto, another IATSE Local 480 member, told CNN she was hired to work as a hairstylist for "Rust," but she turned down the job over safety concerns. One of her main concerns involved housing for crew members, which was in Albuquerque -- 50 miles from the film set in Santa Fe, which would add a long commute to an already long workday.

"They told me the terms were non-negotiable on housing which was in Albuquerque while it was being shot at a ranch in Santa Fe, and I felt at this point like we needed to think about safety," Nieto told CNN. "There was just a few other little glitches that just felt very funny to me."

Nieto said Hutchins' death is "unbearable."

"You don't expect to leave work and not come home -- it's unthinkable, it's unbearable," Nieto told CNN. "We need to take gun safety on film sets more seriously."

- by Aya Elamroussi, Lucy Kafanov and Claudia Dominguez, CNN