Susan Bernecker, the mother of stuntman John Bernecker, who was killed on the Georgia set of The Walking Dead last July, said that she intends to “seek justice for John and to ensure that no other parent with a child working in the film and television industry suffers this kind of heartbreak.”
Her comments on her son’s death come the day after OSHA slapped the show’s production company with a $12,675 fine for “failing to protect employees from fall hazards.”
Bernecker died July 14, two days after suffering massive head injuries in a fall of more than 20 feet from a balcony to a concrete floor while rehearsing a fight scene with an actor. An airbag had been placed below him, but he missed it, striking his head on the ground.
“There are no words to describe the loss of my son, John, who was a highly professional, veteran stuntman with a remarkable passion for life,” she said in a statement. “He was very respected and loved in the film industry. This tragedy has changed our family forever and has left us with many questions that deserve answers.”
She’s retained attorney Jeff R. Harris, who recently represented the parents of Sarah Jones, the camera assistant who was killed in Georgia on the first day of filming Midnight Rider back in 2014.
“We have been waiting for the OSHA investigation to conclude so that we can proceed with civil litigation,” Harris said. “We are hopeful that the John Bernecker case will elevate safety standards in the film and television industry so that stunt-related tragedies can be avoided in the future.”
Upon issuing the citation in connection with Bernecker’s death, OSHA Atlanta regional administrator Kurt Petermeyer said that “This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry. The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.”
Stalwart Films, the show’s production company, said that it disagrees with OSHA’s findings. “This was a tragic and terrible accident.We take the safety of our employees extremely seriously on all of our sets and comply with – and frequently exceed – industry safety standards. We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response.”
Bernecker, 33, had more than 100 film and TV credits, including Fantastic Four, Logan, and the upcoming Black Panther.