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Joel Souza, filmmaker wounded in Alec Baldwin gun incident, ‘gutted’ at friend’s death

FILM director Joel Souza says he is “gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague” Halyna Hutchins, in his first statement since a gun accident on the set of a movie in New Mexico.

Ms Hutchins was killed and Mr Souza wounded when a prop gun with a live round was fired by actor Alec Baldwin.

Mr Souza thanked well-wishers for their “outpouring of affection”.

Court records say Mr Baldwin was handed the gun by an assistant director who told the actor that it was safe.

Ms Hutchins, a 42-year-old cinematographer, was fatally shot in the chest in Thursday’s incident on the set of the film Rust in Santa Fe. Mr Souza, 48, who had been standing behind Ms Hutchins, was treated in hospital for a wound to the shoulder and later discharged.

Police are still investigating the incident and no charges have been brought.

In his statement, Mr Souza said: “I am gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague, Halyna. She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch and always pushed me to be better.

“My thoughts are with her family at this most difficult time. I am humbled and grateful by the outpouring of affection we have received from our filmmaking community, the people of Santa Fe, and the hundreds of strangers who have reached out… It will surely aid in my recovery.”

Court submissions show the assistant director, Dave Halls, did not know the prop contained live ammunition and indicated it was unloaded by shouting “cold gun!”

On Friday, Mr Baldwin – who was the star and producer of the film – said he was “fully co-operating” with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.

“My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna,” he wrote on Twitter.

Alec Baldwin outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's office following questioning over a fatal prop gun shooting, 21/10/2021
Alec Baldwin said he was fully co-operating with the police

Ms Hutchins, 42, was from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle. She studied journalism in Kyiv and film in Los Angeles. She was the director of photography for the 2020 action film Archenemy.

She leaves a husband, Matthew, and a nine-year-old son.

According to the Los Angeles Times, about half a dozen members of the camera crew on Rust had walked out hours before the tragedy after protesting over working conditions on the set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.

There had been at least three earlier prop gun misfires on the set, sources told the Times.

The union members had also complained that they were promised hotel rooms in Santa Fe, but once filming of the Western began they were required to drive 50 miles (80km) from Albuquerque every morning.

The BBC has obtained a document showing which crew members were listed as scheduled to be on set that day.

It names a head armourer, the crew member responsible for checking firearms. Hannah Gutierrez Reed is in her twenties and had recently worked in this role for the first time, on the movie The Old Way.

In a podcast in September she said she almost turned down that job “’cause I wasn’t sure if I was ready… but doing it, like, it went really smoothly”.

The prop gun that Baldwin fired contained a “live single round”, according to an email sent by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees to its membership, reports Variety.

In Rust, Baldwin was starring as an outlaw whose grandson is sentenced to hang for an accidental killing.

The actor is best known for his role as Jack Donaghy on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock and for his portrayal of Donald Trump on the sketch show Saturday Night Live.

Such incidents on film sets are extremely rare.

Real firearms are often used in filming, and are loaded with blanks – cartridges that create a flash and a bang without discharging a projectile.

In 1993, Brandon Lee – the 28-year-old son of the late martial arts star Bruce Lee – died on set after being accidentally shot with a prop gun while filming a death scene for the film The Crow.

An aerial view of the film set on Bonanza Creek Ranch
The fatal shooting happened on the set of the Western film Rust in New Mexico

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