On July 12, 33-year-old John Bernecker, a stuntman on the television show “The Walking Dead” died after an accident on-set. The stuntman was performing a stunt where he was supposed to fall from a balcony over a railing onto a pad. The pad consisted of 22-inch boxes, port-a-pit pads and another large pad. The balcony was about 22 feet in the air.
Another actor on the balcony with Bernecker, Austin Amelio, reported that Bernecker was nervous about the stunt. He had never done a fall from that height. When Bernecker was given the thumbs up, he fell over the rail, but appeared to grab onto the railing at the last second. He then hit the balcony, releasing his grip and spinning upside down while falling. He struck the ground a few inches away from the pad.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the incident. Several issues have cropped up in the days since the accident, including problems locating others who were on the set for interviews. Allegedly, photos of the set show a balcony with no padding below and questions have been raised as to why it took emergency personnel 30 minutes after the fall to transport Bernecker to the hospital.
Typically, injuries sustained by an employee during the scope of his or her employment fall under workers’ compensation law. However, even though Bernecker’s death occurred within the scope of his employment, if companies other than his employer are found to be partially responsible, they could be held liable under negligence or wrongful death theories.