Assistant location manager Brianne Brozey, who was injured on the set of NCIS: Los Angeles in March 2011 — and was one of a handful of people Deadline found in the industry with enough courage to go on the record after the train accident that killed Sarah Jones — now has difficulty speaking after going through a life-threatening, five-hour surgery. It is her first of two major surgeries after being hurt almost four years ago by a falling steel grip head from a light stand.
Prior to the operation, Brozey was still scared and unwilling to tell Deadline what production she was injured on in fear of repercussions against herself and also her husband, also a location manager. Deadline, however, has learned she was on the set of CBS Television Studios’ NCIS: LA. Brozey and her husband still will not confirm, so there is a long way to go for people to feel safe speaking up.
“I’m concerned that it will make it hard for future work with me speaking out because they will think I told you what show it happened on when I didn’t,” said Deven Chierighino, Brozey’s husband of 28 years. “But I will gladly tell you what happened after her injury. I look at my wife and see her in such pain and I think, this never should have happened to her or to anyone on any set. And while she did survive and is alive, I ask myself what will her life be like from here on out? People need to realize what happens at home, in daily life after an injury.”
For instance, the couple has gone from a two-income to a one-income household and is now in financial freefall as he has become a full-time caretaker. They are not alone: Deadline was contacted this past week by a friend of the worker electrocuted on the set of Selma who is in dire need of financial help, struggling not to become homeless.
“With all the recent press about set safety through the recent and heartrending death of camera assistant Sarah Jones on the set of Midnight Rider, along with the major injuries that many of her co-workers sustained from the senseless ‘steel vs. flesh’ train accident, a posthumous slogan was created called Slates for Sarah. This then gave rise to a ’cause for action’ and a reminder to be more safety conscious and aware on the set,” her husband said in a typed statement to Deadline the day before her surgery. “We need to take it a step further. There is nothing yet created or in place today that is available for all the workers that have ‘survived’ their injuries.”
He said Brozey hopes she’ll one day be an advocate for set safety and create some type of association or industry group to help those people who survive set-related injuries and “provide them with tangible support, direction, and an ear to share their feelings.”
“Safety on sets is an important industry issue,” said a spokeswoman for NCIS franchise producer CBS TV Studios, who said the studio would welcome being part of a discussion on safety. “We are committed to providing the safest possible environment for all our above-the-line and below-the-line employees. We welcome being part of any industry dialogue on this important issue.”
This is the third known serious injury from the NCIS franchise; the injuries have happened during a four-year span over 12 seasons. In 2013, a steadicam operator was seriously injured on the set of NCIS: Los Angeles when he was crushed between two crates after a stunt went awry. He is back on set now, according to a spokeswoman for CBS TV Studios. Also, a security guard was killed when a van driver passed out and ran over the 52 year-old father of three on NCIS, resulting in a judgment against CBS TV Studios of $10.45 million.
For Brozey, her life changed in an instant. “She used to be this bubbly girl,” said the friend, who is also too afraid to speak up for fear of losing their own job. “It’s sad what has happened to her.” Prior to the injury, Brozey worked on such shows as CSI, The Unit, Dexter and has done voices for the animated Digimon, Power Rangers, and the Disney film Tarzan.
Chierighino said his wife is recovering and in too much pain to speak. “She was under the knife for almost five hours to fuse two cervical discs and two artificial discs to hopefully repair the damage to her body when the ‘knuckle’ portion of a Mambo Combo [light] stand extended 25 feet in the air with an attached 4-foot by 8-foot flag fell violently onto the back of her neck, shoulder, and lower back.” Deadline tried to speak to her, but she could barely utter words.
Specifically, doctors fused her C3 and C4 vertebrae from the front and implanted two artificial discs between C4 and C5 and between C6 and C7. Due to the critical position of a nerve to her vocal cords, doctors postponed a fusion of her C2 and C3 discs to a future date in order to save her voice and that of her second career of being a voice actor for cartoons and commercials. That second surgery is now scheduled for May, though it does not complete the medical intervention for the injuries she sustained. She also has to address the issue of two more herniated discs in her lumbar area, and repair the damage to an AC separation in her right shoulder that keeps her from being able to use her right arm and hand without major pain and with greatly diminished strength, her husband said.
Brozey and her husband have worked in the industry for years. Workers’ Compensation, he said, has been of little help (which, frankly, I have also heard from others). “To add insult to injury, even to this day, more than four years now after her injury, she is still yet to be approved to consult and be treated for the pain management from the incident. Workers Comp and the court system says that she can’t be in physical pain and refuses to acknowledge this fact or pay for any treatment. It’s outrageous, and cruel,” he said in a typed statement given to Deadline prior to her surgery. “I used to come home from work and find her laying on the floor in the bathroom or kitchen rolled in a fetal position and crying to the point where the pain was so great she couldn’t even scream.”
How did the accident happen? To recap from an earlier Deadline story:
Brozey was employed as an assistant location manager — a profession she has been in since the mid-1980s — when the injury occurred. An hour into her workday, Brozey was being shown around by one of the key location managers she was going to be filling in for when she noticed two huge steel light stands — called “mombo combo” stands — placed near each other. They were used to hold two 4×8-foot flags to block out the sun from shining into the camera lens. There was one sand bag on the bottom of one of the stands. Brozey was in mid-stride walking past the stand, taking notes, when suddenly she felt like she was being hit by a baseball bat on her neck, shoulder and back. She had been walloped by the steel grip head (aka a Lollipop) from one of the high-roller stands. Had her head not been down at the time, doctors told her she would have been killed.
“Sadly, with the exception of one person on the show, she was never contacted by anyone in production,” said Chierighino. “They never called, checked up on, offered assistance, emailed, or even written to see how Bree was doing in these past four years. She has come to the realization that no one her team appeared to truly ever ‘had her back.’ ”
“We are very sorry to hear about Ms. Brozey’s medical issues and certainly do hope for her healing and recovery,” said the CBS TV Studios spokeswoman. “We were aware of the accident four years ago, but not informed of her ongoing medical treatment until being contacted for this story.”
Prior to surgery, Brozey was in constant and blinding pain, wore a C-collar neck brace, had shock pains down her right arms and right leg, severe muscle spasms in her neck and shoulder and had been trying to piece together money to cover all the medical and ancillary costs denied by Worker’s Comp. Before the incident, she ran in the L.A. Marathon and had been training to run in another. “Bree was an athlete in all sense of the word and an athletic junkie that excitedly participated in all traditional sports, marathons, and even a half-ironman triathlon,” Chierighino said. “Of the many goals she had, two of them were to someday compete on The Amazing Race and Survivor.”
She now faces an uncertain future.
“All she did was go to work one day at a job that she loved and with a team that cared for one another, or so she thought,” Chierighino said. “My wife’s injuries were totally preventable had certain crew members been doing their jobs correctly and watching out for one another’s safety. And, while they were able to walk away and have probably forgotten all about that day, my wife and I will forever have to live with the consequences of their careless inactions.”
He said that while his wife has no idea what her future holds, “she knows that what happened to her must be transformed into bettering others lives, or maybe even save one.”
Inland Empire Film Commissioner Sheri Davis said she knows the couple and that they have been working in the industry for many years. “I know that the production community is very generous. There was an incredible outpouring in the community for set safety after Sarah Jones was killed. And I think that people will help her, if they know how and where to help.”
To that end, Wells Fargo Bank has set up a tax-deductible Donation Fund Account for anyone that wants to help. You can donate at any Wells Fargo Bank in c/o Brianne Brozey Donation Fund. You can also donate via Paypal under her name.