“John Bernecker’s family has decided that he will be removed from life support, following organ donation,” said AMC late Friday. “We are deeply saddened by this loss and our hearts and prayers are with John’s family, friends and colleagues during this extremely difficult time.”
The cabler’s official remarks were also accompanied by comments from TWD showrunner and executive producer Scott M. Gimple.“Our production is heartbroken by the tragic loss of John Bernecker,” said Gimple. “John’s work on The Walking Dead and dozens of other movies and shows will continue to entertain and excite audiences for generations,” the EP added. “We are grateful for his contributions, and all of us send our condolences, love, and prayers to John’s family and friends.”
This comes hours after TWD stars Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan posted heartfelt condolences of their own for Bernecker and his family online. The family themselves addressed Bernecker’s death tonight and announced independently that they plan to donate his organs for others. At the same time SAG-AFTRA calling the loss of one of their members “tragic” and “heartbreaking.”
The experienced stuntman passed away at Atlanta Medical Center after plunging 30 feet to a hard concrete floor Wednesday while working on a fight scene for the series. The fatality, says my colleague David Robb, is thought to be the first stunt-related death in America in over 17 years.
Production on the zombie apocalypse series based on Robert Kirkman comics remains shuttered with no word on when it will resume. There also had been no word if a scheduled appearance by TWD cast and creative at Comic-Con on July 21 will still go ahead.
“The family of John Bernecker is heartbroken to confirm that John has passed away from injuries sustained earlier this week,” said a statement posted Friday on the website of LifeLink Foundation, an organ donor organization that operates in the Peach State, Puerto Rico and Florida. “Although devastated by their loss, John’s loved ones have ensured his legacy will live on, not only through the personal and professional contributions he made during his life, but also by their generous decision to allow John to save lives as an organ donor,” the statement adds. “John will touch countless others as the family members, friends and communities of those who receive his organs will be forever impacted by the memories and milestones made possible thanks to a second chance at life,” it continued. “The family requests privacy during this time as they say goodbye to John.”
Not long after that statement was posted, Hollywood’s biggest union released remarks on the tragedy. “SAG-AFTRA offers its deepest condolences to the family of John Bernecker, an accomplished stunt performer who passed away today after a fall on the set of The Walking Dead in Georgia,” the union said. “This tragic and untimely loss of a member of the SAG-AFTRA family is heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with his loved ones and his friends and colleagues in the Georgia production community,” the Gabrielle Carteris led union added. “The safety of our members is paramount. We will work with the authorities and closely monitor their investigations into this tragic incident.”
Earlier today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and SAG-AFTRA opened investigations into Bernecker’s death. An OSHA spokesman told Deadline that the investigation could take up to six months to complete. No word on how long the SAG-AFTRA investigation could take.
Ruled an accident by local law enforcement, the Coweta County Coroner’s office and the sheriff’s department have both closed their respective cases into the matter.
Fox, whose Fox International Channels group carries The Walking Dead in 122 countries around the world, also weighed in on Bernecker’s untimely death Friday night. “As part of the extended The Walking Dead family, we are heartbroken over John Bernecker’s tragic passing,” the company said in a statement. “On behalf of everyone at Fox channels around the world, we send our deepest condolences to his family, loved ones, the cast and crew.”