When film sets became horror shows including crew members killed in stunts

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With explosions, weapons and speeding cars everywhere, film sets can be extremely dangerous places – as the tragic death of cinematographer Halyana Hutchins proves.

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Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed the mum-of-one during the filming of his latest film, Rust.

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Cinematographer Helena Hutchins dies after being shot on setcredit: Instagram / Helena Hutchins
Alex inadvertently shot two crew members on the set of his new film Rust

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Alex inadvertently shot two crew members on the set of his new film Rustcredit: Instagram / Alec Baldwin

The tragic death was caused by a prop gun firing during filming, which also left its director and writer Joel Souza in critical condition.

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The incident is similar to an accident on the set of the 1994 film The Crow, in which promising young actor Brandon Lee was shot and killed.

A prop gun was improperly designed after being used for previous shots, and as a result the 28-year-old took a “dummy” bullet in the stomach that proved fatal.

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A tweet from Lee’s account, which is handled by her sister, said in response to the recent tragedy: “Our hearts go out to the family of Helena Hutchins and Joel Souza and everyone involved in the ‘Rust’ incident.

“No one should ever be hit with a gun on a film set. Period.”

Here we reveal some of the darkest film set stories that haunt Hollywood, from getting hit by trains during filming on a live track to developing cancer after shooting near a nuclear test site.

beat over a cup of tea

Johnnie Walker, 56, was convicted of inflicting injury with intent to cause grievous bodily harm

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Johnnie Walker, 56, was convicted of inflicting injury with intent to cause grievous bodily harmcredit: sbna_fairleys

In March this year, a stagehand in Anne Hathaway’s film The Witches was found guilty of slitting a colleague’s throat over a cup of tea.

Johnnie Walker, 56, attacked Darren Langford after Langford told him about getting his last cup of tea at a refreshment table for himself. Despite already having one.

Walker responded by slitting Langford’s neck with a Stanley knife, leaving the wound so deep that Langford called to tell his wife that he loved her, fearing he was about to die.

Paramedics were called and Langford mercifully survived the gruesome attack.

freight train murder

Panicked footage shows the crew trying to clear the lines before the train hits

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Panicked footage shows the crew trying to clear the lines before the train hitscredit: ABC
Sarah Jones died in a horrific incident on the train tracks

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Sarah Jones died in a horrific incident on the train tracks

What happened on the first day of filming of Midnight Rider (2014) is one of the worst crimes in modern cinema.

Composer Greg Allman’s biopic was filming a dream sequence where star William Hurt was lying on a hospital bed on a railway bridge.

It later emerged that the makers of the film were repeatedly denied permission to shoot on the tracks, but decided to do so nonetheless.

During the scene, a train sped toward the crew on the bridge at 58mph, giving them less than a minute to escape – and the only way to safety was to run toward the train.

It rammed into a hospital bed that exploded into shrapnel – one piece hit camera assistant Sarah Jones, who was dropped and killed on the way to the train.

Seven other crew members were injured—including hairstylist Sarah Gilliard, whose arm was hit by the train, which enabled her to see “a bone sticking out of her sweater,” according to Hollywood Reporter.

Director Randall Miller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass and received a 10-year sentence, of which he served a year in prison.

Star shot dead on set

Brandon Lee in The Crow - he was killed in a freak on-set accident

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Brandon Lee in The Crow – he was killed in a freak on-set accidentcredit: Cobal Collection – Shutterstock

The Crow (1994) was considered a film that would prove to be a big break for Bruce Lee’s son Brandon.

But 28-year-old Brandon was infamously killed in one of Hollywood’s most infamous on-set freak accidents.

Just a week before the film ended, Brandon was involved in a scene where another actor had to shoot at him with a .44 Magnum.

A dummy bullet from the previous scene was lodged in the barrel of the prop gun without anyone being told.

When the blank round was fired at Brandon, he hit the dummy bullet with almost the same force as the live round.

He suffered a stomach injury and died on the operating table, despite six hours of emergency surgery.

crushed by helicopter

Vic Morrow in The Twilight Zone Movie - He Was Killed in a Helicopter Crash with Two Kids

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Vic Morrow in The Twilight Zone Movie – He Was Killed in a Helicopter Crash with Two Kidscredit: Alamy
Helicopter wreckage after fatal crash in California

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Helicopter wreckage after fatal crash in Californiacredit: AP

John Landis and Steven Spielberg’s 1983 film adaptation of The Twilight Zone, inspired by the mind-boggling TV series of the same name, suffered a horrific disaster during filming.

In one scene, actor Vic Morrow had to rescue two children from a burning village during the Vietnam War as a helicopter flew overhead.

In one action-packed shot, the explosion engulfed the helicopter and the pilot lost control.

The spiraling helicopter dropped from the air and, in front of 100 people on set, crashed just above Morrow and two illegally hired child actors, Maika Dinh Le, seven, and Shin-Yi Chen, six.

Morrow and Ley were chopped off by the helicopter’s rotor blades while Chen was crushed to death.

The horrific incident led to a legal battle that lasted for almost a decade.

But eventually the accused production team members, including director Landis, were acquitted of murder.

nuclear cancer scare

The Conqueror was about the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan but was filmed in Nevada.

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The Conqueror was about the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan but was filmed in Nevada.credit: Alamy

The Conqueror (1956) is not only considered one of the worst films of all time, but it is also regarded as one of the most dangerous films for its cast and crew.

Starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan, the outdoor scenes were shot in the Nevada desert – beneath a nuclear test site where several atomic bombs were detonated in the years leading up to the shoot.

The filmmakers were aware of the tests, but the government had repeatedly assured the local people that there was no danger from radioactive fallout.

Of the film’s 220 cast and crew, 91 developed cancer within 25 years, and 46 of them – including John Wayne – died of the disease.

There’s no way to know for sure how much radiation was the cause, with Wayne himself blaming his six-pack-a-day smoking habit for his deadly cancer, but some experts linked the illness to the filming location.

death in front of family

Wanda Sapp watching footage of her daughter's fatal fall

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Wanda Sapp watching footage of her daughter’s fatal fallcredit: getty

Eddie Murphy’s gothic comedy Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) is remembered today as a tragedy partly for its horrific stunt death.

The film follows the vampire character of Murphy who targets an NYPD detective played by Angela Bassett.

It was Bassett’s stunt double, Sonja Davis, who tragically died during the shoot, falling 42 feet from a building—in front of her mother who was walking onto the set.

Her brother, Patrick, was also there – he videographed the stunt in which Davis fell on an airbag in the rear, which was supposed to reduce his fall.

Instead she tossed the bag into the building, causing multiple injuries – her mother, Wanda Sapp, said Davis died at age 32 after 19 days in a coma.

“The last word I heard my kid say was when he yelled at the stunt coordinator, ‘Are you sure?'” Sapp told Los Angeles Times in 1995. “I could feel Sonja wasn’t comfortable with the stunt.”

the horrors of the bombings

The Expendables 2 Has Countless Explosions - One Of Which Proves To Be Fatal

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The Expendables 2 Has Countless Explosions – One Of Which Proves To Be Fatal

More or less everything explodes in The Expendables 2 (2012), which means there are a lot of dangerous explosions involved in the shooting.

The second installment of the mercenary action film features scenes filmed in Bulgaria – where a stuntman infamously lost his life.

Kun Liu was killed while filming for a scene on Lake Ognyanovo where a boat exploded.

Colleague Nuo Granthshala was also injured in the same blast and had to undergo five hours of life-saving surgery.

batmobile shoot crash

Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight - died shortly after filming wrapped

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Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight – died shortly after filming wrappedcredit: AP: Associated Press

Heath Ledger was awarded an Oscar posthumously for his portrayal as the Joker – but his only death was not associated with The Dark Knight (2008).

Special effects technician Conway Wycliffe, 41, lost his life while filming a test run of the sequence where the Batmobile was blown up.

He was leaning out the window of a 4×4 truck and operating a camera shooting a stunt car when the tragedy struck.

The truck he was in failed to make a sharp turn at the end of its path, was on its way and collided with a tree.

Wycliffe suffered serious injuries on impact and was pronounced dead at the QinetiQ site at Longcross near Chertsey, Surrey.

last moment in the movie

Vin Diesel and Asia Argento in xXx - One of the stuntmen in the movie didn't survive the shooting

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Vin Diesel and Asia Argento in xXx – One of the stuntmen in the movie didn’t survive the shootingcredit: getty
Action sequence depicts O'Connor's final moments before hitting the bridge

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Action sequence depicts O’Connor’s final moments before hitting the bridge

Vin Diesel’s xXx (2002) was one of the most chilling filmmaking deaths of stunt double, Harry O’Connor – as his final moments were used in the film.

The stunt that claimed his life included a parasailing sequence near the Palaki Bridge in Prague.

O’Connor flawlessly completed the first take of the stunt, and shots from that attempt were incorporated into the final cut of the film.

On the second take, retired Navy SEAL O’Connor hit his head on the bridge and was killed.

In his commentary on the film, director Rob Cohen says, “There were 500 stuntmen in this picture; 499 didn’t get a bruise.”

“It just shows you the lengths we’ll go to to bring such a profound experience to audiences.”

deadly bike smash

Joey 'SJ' Harris was a professional motorbike racer before working on Deadpool 2

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Joey ‘SJ’ Harris was a professional motorbike racer before working on Deadpool 2credit: facebook
Police at the scene of Joy's fatal accident - she was thrown in the window

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Police at the scene of Joy’s fatal accident – she was thrown in the windowcredit: Rex Features

It was also sadly for pro motorcycle road racer Joey Harris, who died while filming a stunt on Deadpool 2 (2018).

Doubling up as Domino’s for Zazie Beetz, it was…

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