It’s never easy to talk about lives being lost, especially when they’re young and so full of promise. There’s a special light brought into the world by people who are brave enough to embrace that in themselves, and recently two of the makers of that light were lost.
John Bernecker, a Hollywood stuntman and member of The Walking Dead family passed away last month after a fall on set. Immediately after news of his accident broke; friends, family, and fans sent love and hope to Bernecker and those who love him. It was announced shortly after that the accident took his life.
Production on TWD was shut down for days after the accident.
Since then, his mother created a memorial site for him with the tagline ‘Live Like John Bernecker’ which means to live with passion and kindness.
Just days ago, another life was lost in an on set accident. During the filming of Deadpool 2, a motorcycle driver lost her life during her first movie as a stunt woman. Her name, Joi ‘SJ’ Harris, and her message was to work hard and inspire others. She was the first African American female professional road racer and wanted to encourage others in her work.
Production on the film was also shut down after her passing.
SJ’s fans, friends, and family have also spoken out since her passing and she’s remembered as someone inspirational and extremely motivated.
Both accidents are being investigated, and teams from both TWD and Deadpool 2 being cooperative, but the deaths have raised a massive red flag. Yes, being a stunt person in Hollywood is dangerous, but are the necessary safety precautions being taken?
CBS News posted statements from Jon Miguel, a co-founder of Stuntactical who has been performing stunts for a decade on television and film. He said that there aren’t a lot of formal regulations, and that needs to change.
‘A lot has to do with the fact that there aren’t really a lot of formal regulations. There isn’t as much as an emphasis on making sure that: 1. How can I do this stunt safely, and 2. Can I do this stunt at all?’
He continued to say that without regulations, bad things are going to happen. It makes you wonder, of course, what could have been done to make the stunts performed by John and SJ safer, but also what will be done in the future to stop this from happening.
Many stunt people and even actors/actresses themselves are hurt on set, and there isn’t an excuse for that. When you take on a career in the entertainment industry, there will be situations that push you out of your comfort zone. When you take on a career in the stunt industry, you know you’ll potentially risk being injured – but that doesn’t mean you should expect to lose your life.
Other professionals from film and television sets as well as stunt people and coordinators have spoken out since both deaths. They say there is no room or reason for death in this day and age of the stunt industry. It’s been said that there should be more necessary steps in planning a stunt appropriately – such as an ambulance on set at all times, and any concerns by those involved being taken seriously.
Chris Palmer, a risk management consultant, also weighed in on the deaths and what should be the standard for dangerous stunts.
‘We can’t eliminate every possible risk, but we have to do everything we reasonably can to prevent those things from happening.’