Questions Swirl Around Walking Dead Stuntman's Fatal Fall

It's not clear what went wrong with what should have been a simple stunt
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2017 8:05 PM CDT
Mystery Swirls Around Walking Dead Stuntman's Fatal Fall
John Bernecker   (YouTube)

Stuntperson John Bernecker was supposed to be doing what one veteran stunt coordinator calls "the ABC of stunts"—a 22-foot fall—on the Georgia set of the Walking Dead when he instead plummeted headfirst to his death. The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at the investigation surrounding the incident, which the local sheriff's office, OSHA, and SAG-AFTRA are all probing, and notes the questions swirling around it. It's not yet clear how what should have been a simple stunt turned fatal, but Bernecker's girlfriend, a fellow stuntperson, has implied that actor Austin Amelio (Dwight on the show) shouldn't have been on the balcony with Bernecker since, as an actor and not a stuntperson, he "doesn't know what he's doing." Amelio has not commented on the incident. Then there's the fact that photos of the scene show no padding below the balcony.

The police report of the incident notes that Bernecker was supposed to fall from the balcony onto padding; the assistant director who was also on the balcony says Bernecker signaled he was ready, got most of the way over the balcony but didn't seem to get "good separation" from it, tried to abort the stunt by grabbing onto the railing but missed, and ended up missing the padding by inches. "Something obviously went wrong," a former president of the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures says, but we may never know what. There are other questions, too, such as why it took 17 minutes for an ambulance to get to the scene and why Bernecker was not evacuated via medical helicopter until 30 minutes after the accident. Plus, most crewmembers were sent away soon after the accident, meaning police couldn't interview them. The sheriff's office has also recently stopped giving materials, including photographs, videos, and new reports, to the media. See the Reporter's full piece here. (More The Walking Dead stories.)

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