EXCLUSIVE: A preliminary investigation into the accident that took the life of stuntwoman Joi “SJ” Harris this week on the Vancouver set of the Ryan Reynolds-starring Deadpool 2 suggests that the stunt might not have been all that difficult and that her death was the result of a freak low-speed accident.
An investigation report by WorkSafeBC, British Columbia’s version of the U.S. government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, obtained by Deadline and dated August 15, found that:
“a temporary worksite had been setup to record a film scene for a movie production. The site had been cordoned off from general public and traffic by the Vancouver Police Department. The worker had been rehearsing a stunt scene that involved driving a motorcycle, Dictate 939 Hyperstrada, out of the open doors of a building, across a concrete pad and down a ramp that had been built over three stairs and coming to a stop on the stair landing. During the first shooting of the scene the stunt driver continued driving beyond the planned stopping spot on the stairway landing, and continued to drive down a second ramp built over the bottom stairs and across the roadway. The motorcycle struck the concrete sidewalk curb, the worker was thrown off the motorcycle and propelled through a plate glass window of a building.”
Deadline also learned that the crash Monday happened in second unit photography after Harris had completed five takes on the 20th Century Fox film already. It was after the sixth take that the motorcycle hit the curb.
“In the maneuver, which was never more than 15 kilometers per hour – [a little less than] 10 miles an hour – she rode on a flat surface through two open doors and then turned left and went out of camera range,” a source close to the production said. “Her exit was a safety ramp to a big platform where the bike was supposed to stop, but she overshot the platform, hit a curb, and was thrown from the bike through a glass window.”
Harris was an experienced motorcycle rider, but this was her first movie stunt. The source said rumors that she was not qualified for the job, and was hired only because she was black and was doubling for an actress of mixed race, are untrue. “To say an unqualified person was put in this position is absolutely untrue,” the source said. “She was the best candidate for the job.”
Production was halted immediately after the crash. The British Columbia Coroner told Deadline that day “a coroner attended the scene and an investigation is underway with The Vancouver Police Department and WorkSafeBC, which also is investigating this incident.” Harris reportedly was not wearing a helmet during the stunt work.
Production started up again 48 hours later and the cast and crew reportedly held for a moment of silence in remembrance of the 32-year-old Harris.
Deadpool 2 is skedded for release on June 1.