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The Walking Dead halts production after an accident that killed stuntman John Bernecker

The veteran stuntman died after reportedly filming a "routine" on-set fall.

Rick and Michonne kiss. AMC
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

AMC has suspended production on The Walking Dead following an on-set accident that has left a stunt performer dead.

John Bernecker died on July 13 of a head injury sustained in a fall that occurred the previous day, while shooting an episode of The Walking Dead’s eighth season on the show’s set in Atlanta. Bernecker had worked as a Hollywood stuntman since 2009, including on such films as Logan and The Fate of the Furious. He had also filmed scenes for a number of upcoming films, including Black Panther and Game Night.

On-set sources told Deadline that the accident occurred during what was supposed to be a “routine” balcony fight and fall. Bernecker reportedly lost his footing and fell onto the concrete floor. Estimates of the distance of his fall range from 20 to 30 feet.

In a statement released following Bernecker’s injury on Wednesday, AMC said, “We are saddened to report that John Bernecker, a talented stuntman for ‘The Walking Dead’ and numerous other television shows and films, suffered serious injuries from a tragic accident on set. He was immediately transported to an Atlanta hospital and we have temporarily shut down production.” Bernecker was reportedly brain-dead and on life support Wednesday night.

Production on the show’s eighth season has been suspended pending an investigation by SAG-AFTRA, Hollywood’s main actors union.

“As always, the safety and security of our members and others on set is of crucial concern to us, and we are focused on this in our investigation,” a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson told Variety. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the performer and his family.”

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that an injury or death has occurred on the set of a production in Georgia. In 2014, on the first day of filming for Midnight Rider in Jesup, Georgia, an accident on a train trestle resulted in the death of a 27-year-old camera operator and the serious injury of several other crew members. Courts found that the film’s producers and director had willfully and knowingly violated safety guidelines. The film was canceled.

That same year, a lighting crew member was electrocuted while filming Selma in Atlanta. He survived the incident.