Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dies after prop gun fired by Alec Baldwin fires live round

Halyna Hutchins was remembered for breaking barriers for women in Hollywood.

October 24, 2021, 10:13 PM

A trailblazing cinematographer working on the film "Rust" is dead and the director was hospitalized after an accident on set involving star Alec Baldwin and a misfiring prop gun, authorities said Thursday.

Baldwin fired the prop gun, striking the film's director, Joel Souza, and director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, the sheriff's office said in a statement Thursday night.

Hutchins, 42, was transported via helicopter to University of New Mexico Hospital, the state's only Level 1 trauma center, "in critical condition," according to sheriff's deputies and the hospital. She later succumbed to her injuries, the sheriff's office said.

Deputies with Santa Fe County Sheriff's office responded to an incident at a movie set in Santa Fe, seen in a grab from aerial footage, Oct. 21, 2021.

Souza, 48, was brought in an ambulance to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and was receiving emergency care, authorities said. Actress Frances Fisher, who was cast in "Rust," tweeted Friday morning that Souza was out of the hospital.

"There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours," Baldwin said in a tweet Friday morning, adding that he is "fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred."

Souza released a statement on Saturday saying his thoughts were with Hutchins' family.

"I am gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague, Halyna. She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch and always pushed me to be better," he wrote. "I am humbled and grateful by the outpouring of affection we have received from our filmmaking community, the people of Santa Fe, and the hundreds of strangers who have reached out. ... It will surely aid in my recovery.”

Hutchins' sister released a statement Sunday, saying she cannot comprehend her death.

"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. Hopefully, time will ease our heartache," Svetlana Androsovych said in a statement. "She was the brightest person I’ve ever known, my friend, support no matter happened, never judge me or anyone. Very talented and strong personality. Proud of our family."

The Western, starring Baldwin and Jensen Ackles of "Supernatural," began filming this month at Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, a film location in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Prop gun was supposed to be empty: Search warrant

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident. On Oct. 22, they executed a search warrant at the location of the incident.

The prop gun was one of three on hand that an assistant director handed to Baldwin while proclaiming "cold gun," to let the crew know a gun with no live rounds was being used, according to a search warrant from Santa Fe County obtained by ABC News.

Baldwin then fired the gun, shooting Hutchins in the chest, the warrant stated. Souza, who was standing behind her, sustained a gunshot wound to the shoulder, investigators said.

The assistant director told investigators he did not know there were any rounds in the gun he gave to Baldwin, according to the warrant.

Baldwin, who appeared to have bloodstains on his clothing, was brought in for a statement and his clothing was collected, the warrant stated.

During the search, investigators spoke to Souza, who described the moment the gun went off, the warrant stated. He said Baldwin was sitting in a pew in the area's church, practicing his cross draw, facing the camera and crew, pointing the revolver toward the camera lens. Souza said he was looking over Hutchins' shoulder when he "heard what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop" and realized both he and Hutchins were bleeding. Hutchins complained about her stomach hurting and then said she couldn't feel her legs, according to the warrant.

A press conference is scheduled for Oct. 27, and the sheriff is expected to provide more details about the investigation Monday, Oct. 25.

Crew had concerns over safety

The day before the deadly incident, a large number of people in the camera department resigned over reasons including an apparent lack of safety protocols, a member of the camera crew who quit the production told ABC News.

On a day prior to Thursday's fatal shooting, there were two accidental discharges within 10 minutes, according to the former crew member.

The issue of gun safety had been brought up by the camera crew and allegedly brushed off repeatedly by producers, said the person, who had already left the set before the fatal shooting occurred.

The crew also had concerns about an apparent lack of COVID-19 safety on set, the person said.

"You can only threaten to leave so much and if they don’t change anything, you just have to leave," the former crew member said.

The camera crew walkout was previously reported by the Los Angeles Times and Deadline.

In a statement to the publications, Rust Movie Productions LLC said it was not aware of prop safety complaints.

"The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company," the production company said in the statement. "Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time."

'She was a fantastic person': Hollywood pays tribute to barrier-breaking Hutchins

Halyna Hutchins, director of photography for "Rust", poses for a selfie photo in this picture obtained from social media.
Halynahutchins via Reuters

Hutchins was a native of Ukraine who previously worked as an investigative journalist after graduating with a degree in International Journalism from Kyiv National University, according to a biography on her website. She went on to gain a degree from the American Film Institute in 2015, and was based in Los Angeles.

In a heartfelt post to Twitter late Friday, her husband, Matthew Hutchins, said that the loss was "enormous," while sharing a picture of his wife with their young son.

"Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words," he said. "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."

Hutchins was remembered by colleagues for breaking barriers for women in Hollywood's male-dominated cinematography sector. She was selected as one of the American Cinematographer's Rising Stars of 2019 and recently worked on the film "Blindfire," with director Mike Nell.

Fellow cinematographer Elle Schneider paid tribute to Hutchins in a series of tweets Friday, remembering her as a "friend and rockstar cinematographer."

"Women cinematographers have historically been kept from genre film, and it seems especially cruel that one of the rising stars who was able to break through had her life cut short on the kind of project we've been fighting for," Schneider wrote.

"True Blood" actor Joe Manganiello shared on Instagram that he recently worked with Hutchins on the film "Archenemy," and he was in "shock" over news of her death.

"She was an absolutely incredible talent and a great person. She had such an eye and a visual style, she was the kind of cinematographer that you wanted to see succeed because you wanted to see what she could pull off next," he recalled. "She was a fantastic person."

"My heart goes out to her family and especially to her son," he added. "I am so sad today for everyone who knew her and worked with her."

Baldwin said in a second tweet Friday that he is in touch with Hutchins' husband and offering his support to her family.

"My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna," Baldwin wrote.

A candlelight vigil is planned for Saturday night in downtown Albuquerque to honor her life.

Investigation ongoing and no charges have been filed

Local District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies told ABC News in a statement Friday they do not yet know if charges will be filed.

"This case is still in its preliminary states of investigation. We are assisting the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office and have offered our full support to them," Carmack-Altwies said. "At this time, we do not know if charges will be filed."

"We will look into all facts and evidence of the case with great discretion and have further information at a later time," she added. "Our thoughts are with all affected by this tragedy."

Alec Baldwin in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's offices on Camino Justicia after being questioned on Oct. 20, 2021 about a shooting on a local movie set.
Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican

Deputies with the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office responded to the film set around 2 p.m. local time after a 911 caller "reported a shooting on the set," the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

Detectives are still determining "how and what type of projectile was discharged," the sheriff's office said earlier.

Film director Joel Souza is seen in this undated handout photo obtained on Oct. 22, 2021.
Courtesy of Phillip Caruso via Reuters

The film halted production following the accident, a producer said.

"There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of Rust involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks," the producer said in a statement to ABC News. "Production has been halted for the time being. The safety of our cast and crew remains our top priority."

"We received the devastating news this evening that one of our members, Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography on a production called 'Rust' in New Mexico died from injuries sustained on the set. The details are unclear at this moment, but we are working to learn more, and we support a full investigation into this tragic event," John Lindley, the president of the International Cinematographers Guild, local union 600, said in a statement Thursday night with Rebecca Rhine, the executive director.

"This is a terrible loss, and we mourn the passing of a member of our Guild's family," the statement continued.

An exterior view near the emergency entrance to Christus St. Vincent Medical Center, where "Rust" director Joel Souza was transported, on Oct. 21, 2021 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Sam Wasson/Getty Images
Deputies with Santa Fe County Sheriff's office responded to an incident at a movie set in Santa Fe, Oct. 21, 2021.
Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican

The sprawling Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch is frequently used as a film location for Westerns, including "3:10 to Yuma" and "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs."

Baldwin shared a photo from the set of "Rust" earlier on Thursday in costume.

"Back to in person at the office," he captioned the since-deleted post. "Blimey…it's exhausting."

The actor is co-producing the film under his company, El Dorado Pictures, with Souza writing and directing.

ABC News' Nick Cirone, Matt Gutman and Jenna Harrison contributed to this report.

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