While working on the set of his latest movie in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Thursday afternoon, actor Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm that sent two film crew members to the hospital where one of them later died.
Fox News reported that a press release from the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department stated that deputies were sent to the scene of the shooting just before 2 p.m. local time. Investigators said the prop gun was being used in a scene when it was fired by Baldwin, striking the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, and director Joel Souza.
Hutchins was transported by helicopter to the University of New Mexico hospital for stomach surgery, but did not survive. Souza, who was hit in the shoulder, was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent’s Hospital for emergency treatment.
“Detectives are investigating how [the prop firearm was used] and what type of projectile was discharged,” the Sheriff’s Office statement said, as reported by Deadline. “This incident remains an active investigation. As more information becomes available, updates will be provided.”
Baldwin posted on Twitter late Friday morning, saying, “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.”
“I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna,” he added.
The sheriff’s office noted that no charges have been filed. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Baldwin, 63, was observed outside the sheriff’s office “distraught and in tears” while speaking on the phone.
“There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of Rust involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks,” a production spokesperson told Deadline. “Two crew members have been taken to the hospital and are receiving care. Production has been halted for the time being. The safety of our cast and crew remains our top priority.”
The film, called “Rust,” features Baldwin as Harland Rust, an outlaw who helps his grandson escape prison where the teen is being held after being “convicted of an accidental murder and sentenced to hang.”
Before the accident on Thursday, Baldwin posted a now-deleted photo of himself in character on Instagram, writing in the caption, “Back to in person at the office. Blimey…it’s exhausting.”
A blank cartridge in a prop gun can be lethal. According to News18, blank cartridges replace the bullet with a wadding of paper or cotton, allowing it to create the same noise and flash as a regular bullet without the metal projectile.
“At the muzzle of a weapon, the energy is all there, you don’t need [a bullet], it is a highly focused explosive charge. The closer you get to the muzzle, the more dangerous it is,” theatrical armorer John Bowring explained, adding that the wadding leaves the barrel at supersonic speed when fired, increasing the danger.