'Rust' Gaffer Says Halyna Hutchins Died in His Arms, Blames 'Negligence and Unprofessionalism' for Shooting
By Zach Seemayer
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Serge Svetnoy, the chief electrician on the set of Rust, is accusing the film's 24-year-old armorer and the producers of "negligence and unprofessionalism." He took to Facebook on Sunday to lay blame on who he claims is responsible for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Svetnoy explained how he'd worked with Hutchins on previous films, and says he was "standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Halyna during this fatal shot that took her life."
The Sheriff’s Department in Sante Fe, New Mexico, confirmed to ET on Thursday evening that Alec Baldwin -- who stars in the film and serves as co-producer -- was the one who fired the prop gun which led to the fatal accident. The shooting also injured director Joel Souza, who was treated in the hospital and subsequently released.
"I was holding her in my arms while she was dying. Her blood was on my hands," Svetnoy wrote in his post, which was also penned in Russian. "I want to tell my opinion on why this has happened. I think I have the right to do it. It's the fault of negligence and unprofessionalism."
"The negligence from the person who was supposed to check the weapon on the site did not do this; the person who had to announce that the loaded gun was on the site did not do this," Sveynoy claimed. "The person who should have checked this weapon before bringing it to the set did not do it."
The crew member goes on to slam the producers of the film for not having "professionals" working on set. "Professionals are the people who have spent years on sets, people who know this job from A to Z; These are the people who have the safety on set at the level of reflexes; they do not need to be told to put the sandbag on a tripod, fix the ladder on the stage, or fence off the explosion site," he insisted in his post. "They have it in their blood."
"I'm calling out to the producers! We have a fascinating and amazing job, but it's also dangerous. We film in the mountains, in the open water, underwater. We have explosions, shooting guns, car crashes, electricity after all, and much more. To save a dime sometimes, you hire people who are not fully qualified for the complicated and dangerous job, and you risk the lives of the other people who are close and your lives as well," Svetnoy continued. "I understand that you always fight for the budget, but you cannot allow this to happen. There should always be at least one professional in each department who knows the job. It is an absolute must to avoid such a tragedy, like the tragedy with Halyna."
He concluded his post, "Dear Producers, by hiring professionals, you are buying peace of mind for yourself and the people around you. It is true that the professionals can cost a little more and sometimes can be a little bit more demanding, but it is worth it. No saved penny is worth the LIFE of the person!"
According to an affidavit filed by the Santa Fe County’s Sheriff’s Office obtained by ET, Baldwin was told by assistant director Dave Halls, who handed him the gun, that it was safe to shoot, and he did not know the gun was loaded with live rounds. It's unclear how many rounds were fired.
A search warrant also notes that the prop gun fired and Baldwin's wardrobe, which was blood-stained, were taken by police as evidence. Other prop guns, ammunition and any footage of the incident that might exist were also confiscated.
On Tuesday, ET spoke with firearms expert Steve Wolf, who provided insight into how an incident like this could occur. He explained that, while the gun was used in the film as a prop, it was still very much a real, working firearm and the term prop gun is a misnomer.
"If bullets came out of this gun, it was not a prop gun. It was a real gun that was being used as a gun in the movie," he explained, adding that, since Rust is a period western, "The type of gun that they were using was most likely a single action gun."
According to a report from The Wrap, crew members on the film allegedly used the gun for target practice, shooting beer cans with real ammunition, to pass time on set. This could potentially explain how to real bullet got confused for a fake and remained in the gun.
Wolf demonstrated how simple is it -- and how important it is -- to examine the rounds in a revolver before use in a scene, and said that past complaints against crew members who are key to safety protocols should have been an indicator not to hire them for such a potentially hazardous production.
"The fact that someone had safety red flags is absolutely a reason to pass on them," Wolf stated.
Rust is said to have had a series of problems before Hutchins' tragic death and Souza's injury. Multiple reports note that prior to the fatal shooting, many union crew members walked off set in protest of "poor" working conditions. There had also been at least one incident of a prop gun misfiring on the Rust set prior to the fatal accident and Souza being shot, Deadline reported.
"The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. 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," Rust Movie Productions said in a statement to ET on Friday. "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."
A memo was also sent out by the Rust production team to the cast and crew of the film, noting that they "have made the decision to wrap the set at least until the investigations are complete."
"Although our hearts are broken, and it is hard to see beyond the horizon, this is, at the moment, a pause rather than an end," reads the memo. "The spirit that brought us all to this special place remains."
The message further states that they are cooperating with authorities in their investigation and are also "conducting an internal review of safety protocols."
That statement says the production team will "remain in close touch with Halyna’s family and commend the strength they show in the face of unspeakable tragedy."
"We will be making a donation to the Halyna Hutchins Scholarship Fund established by Halyna’s family," the message concludes. "We will be matching any donations by the crew."
According to a CNN report published on Monday, an assistant director on the set of Rust, Dave Halls, was previously the subject of complaints on the set of two previous productions in 2019.
The complaints leveled against Halls accuse him of unsafe practices, a disregard for safety protocols with regard to fire arms used during filming, and inappropriate behavior toward crew members. The complaints stem from his work on two episodes of the Hulu anthology horror series Into The Dark.
ET has also learned that Halls was fired from the set of the 2019 drama Freedom's Path. The film's production company, Rocket Soul Studios, released a statement to ET on Monday regarding his termination from the project.
"First of all, our condolences go out to everyone affected by the recent tragic event in New Mexico," the statement shared. "We can confirm that Dave Halls was fired from the set of Freedom's Path in 2019 after a crew member incurred a minor and temporary injury when a gun was unexpectedly discharged. Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged. Production did not resume filming until Dave was off-site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time."
A source told ET on Sunday, "Alec is beside himself. He is incredibly devastated and sick to his stomach over what happened. He is still processing everything and dealing with a lot of grief and shock."
The source added that Baldwin's wife, Hilaria Baldwin, is "trying to be there for Alec in the best way she can, but it is a heart shattering situation for everyone involved."