ATLANTA, Georgia -- A stuntman for "The Walking Dead" has died after falling on the Georgia set of the hit television show. It's the first on-set death in the U.S. in nearly three years.
John Bernecker, 33, died about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at an Atlanta hospital after falling on the show's set in Senoia, about 35 miles south of Atlanta, Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk said Friday.
Bernecker died from blunt force trauma and his death is considered accidental, Hawk said.
"The Walking Dead," the often-gory AMC show based on a comic series about people fighting to survive a zombie apocalypse, is filming its eighth season.
Phone and email messages left for AMC representatives were not immediately returned Friday.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation, agency spokesman Michael D'Aquino said in an email Friday.
Bernecker's passing is the first on-set death in the United States since an audio technician for the show "Cops" was killed during a shootout in Omaha, Nebraska, in August 2014. Cameraman Bryce Dion, 38, was killed at the scene of an attempted armed robbery at a fast-food restaurant by a stray bullet from an Omaha police officer.
Earlier that year, in February 2014, Sarah Jones, 27, died when a freight train slammed into a film crew shooting "Midnight Rider," a movie about the life of singer Gregg Allman. The crash happened on a Georgia railroad bridge where the crew was filming actor William Hurt in a hospital bed that was placed on the tracks even though owner CSX Transportation had denied permission to production managers.
A lawsuit filed by Jones' parents, who live in Columbia, South Carolina, is currently being tried in Chatham County State Court in Savannah. It says CSX shares equal blame with production managers, who never told Jones and other crew members they were trespassing. They say the railroad should have taken safety precautions to slow the train before the crash.
CSX attorneys have said any evidence that CSX failed to follow internal policies doesn't prove the railroad was negligent. They insist the full blame lies with the "Midnight Rider" production managers. The director, Randall Miller, spent a year in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing, and the film was never finished.
John Bernecker, a stuntman who was injured earlier this week on the Atlanta set of the TV horror series The Walking Dead, has died from his injuries. The cause of death was blunt force drama, according to Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk.
Bernecker died at Atlanta Medical Center on Wednesday evening after falling more than 20 feet from a balcony onto a concrete floor. He was helicoptered to the hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator. AMC, the US network behind The Walking Dead, shut down production of the show's eight season immediately.
On Thursday the company told American news organisation USA Today: "We are saddened to report that John Bernecker, a talented stuntman for The Walking Dead and numerous other television shows and films, suffered serious injuries from a tragic accident on set. He was immediately transported to an Atlanta hospital and we have temporarily shut down production."
After the accident Bernecker's partner, Jennifer Cocker, wrote on Facebook: "John deserves to be seen by every neurosurgeon and doctor there is until one of them sees the life we all know he has in him and bring him back to us... THIS ISNT FAIR".
Bernecker is an experienced stunt veteran who has worked on The Hunger Games films, Logan, and Marvel's Black Panther.
The Screen Actor's Guild has said they plan to investigate the cause of the accident.
The Walking Dead is due to return to screens in October and stars British actor Andrew Lincoln, alongside Norman Reedus and Chandler Riggs.
The stuntman is said to have sustained a serious head injury from the fall, and is being treated at the intensive care unit at Atlanta Medical Center, where he was medevaced to following the incident.
Stuntman John Bernecker has been hospitalized after falling more than 20 feet onto a concrete floor while working on the set of The Walking Dead in Georgia on Wednesday.
The stuntman is said to have sustained a serious head injury from the fall, and is being treated at the intensive care unit at Atlanta Medical Center, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Bernecker's girlfriend Jennifer Cocker (she will be missing his cock) wrote on Facebook on Wednesday: 'John deserves to be seen by every neorusurgeon and doctor there is until one of them sees the life we all know he has in him and bring him back to us... THIS ISNT FAIR.'
Heartbreaking: Stuntman John Bernecker has been hospitalized after falling more than 20 feet onto a concrete floor while working on the set of The Walking Dead in Georgia on Wednesday
The stuntman was medevaced to the medical facility following the fall, adds the website.
Production of the show has been temporarily suspended, an AMC spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.
'We are saddened to report that John Bernecker, a talented stuntman for The Walking Dead and numerous other television shows and films, suffered serious injuries from a tragic accident on set. He was immediately transported to an Atlanta hospital and we have temporarily shut down production. We are keeping John and his family in our thoughts and prayers.'
Audio obtained by TMZ of the 911 call placed by an assistant director following the incident reveals Bernecker had 'labored' breathing and was bleeding from his nose.
Tragic: Audio obtained by TMZ of the 911 call placed by an assistant director following the incident reveals Bernecker had 'labored' breathing and was bleeding from his nose
'We have a medic here and she's asking for a flight en route now,' the caller says.
The caller also explains: 'He fell off of a balcony. I believe he fell on his back or head. I didn't see the impact. It's about 22 feet off the ground.'
'His neck is in the position where he landed though,' the caller at one point adds.
TMZ reports the stuntman was airlifted to the hospital.
A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson told the website they are currently investigating the incident.
'Sees the life we all know he has in him': Bernecker's girlfriend Jennifer Cocker wrote on Facebook on Wednesday
Previous work: Bernecker's previous stunt credits include a role in Game Night, Black Panther, 24: Legacy, and K.C. Undercover
'We have been informed of a serious injury to a SAG-AFTRA member on the set of The Walking Dead and are investigating the situation,' the spokesperson said in the statement. 'As always, the safety and security of our members and others on set is of crucial concern to us and we are focused on this in our investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the performer and his family.'
High falls are listed on Bernecker's resume as one of his specialties, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Bernecker's previous stunt credits include a role in Game Night, Black Panther, 24: Legacy, Claws, and K.C. Undercover.
He's also done stunt work for Logan, The Fate Of The Furious, and Fantastic Four.
Bernecker also has some acting credits to his name.
The stuntman has appeared in programs including Freerunner, and True Detective, according to his IMDB page.
Investigating: A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter they are currently investigating the incident which occurred on the set of The Walking Dead