'The Walking Dead' stuntman dies after injury on set

COWETA COUNTY, Ga. — A stunt performer has died after a fall on the set of “The Walking Dead.”

Coweta County Coroner Richard Awk confirmed to Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach that John Bernecker, 33, died Wednesday.

The accident report said Bernecker fell 25 feet onto concrete.

Production on the AMC action-packed zombie series has been halted following the fall.

Bernecker reportedly suffered a head injury so severe, he had to be taken by helicopter to a level one trauma center in Atlanta.


The show is filmed in Georgia.

Bernecker is a veteran stuntman who has worked on productions like The Hunger Games.

Photos from the sheriff's office show the balcony two stories up Bernecker fell from and the cushion, that according to a witness, he missed by just inches.

"He fell off of a balcony, I believe he fell on his back, or head. I didn't see the impact," a witness described in a 911 call.

The police report states Bernecker gave the thumbs up, signaling he was ready.

The Assistant Director told sheriff's investigators Bernecker was supposed to go up and over the balcony's railing, but instead grabbed on with both hands, slammed into the bottom, lost grip and fell about 25 feet.

Late Friday, Bernecker's family released a statement saying his organs will be donated through the LifeLink organization.

The statement said quote:

Although devastated by their loss, John's loved ones have ensured his legacy will live on, not only through the personal and professional contributions he made during his life, but also by their generous decision to allow John to save lives as an organ donor. John will touch countless others as the family members, friends and communities of those who receive his organs will be forever impacted by the memories and milestones made possible thanks to a second chance at life.

The family requests privacy during this time as they say goodbye to John.

The sheriff's office has turned the investigation over to OSHA because this is a workplace death.

The Actor's Union will also investigate.

Other deaths reported during film shoots

Bernecker's passing is the first on-set death in the United States since an audio technician for the show "Cops" was killed during a shootout in Omaha, Nebraska, in August 2014. Cameraman Bryce Dion, 38, was killed at the scene of an attempted armed robbery at a fast-food restaurant by a stray bullet from an Omaha police officer.

Earlier that year, in February 2014, Sarah Jones, 27, died when a freight train slammed into a film crew shooting "Midnight Rider," a movie about the life of singer Gregg Allman. The crash happened on a Georgia railroad bridge where the crew was filming actor William Hurt in a hospital bed that was placed on the tracks even though owner CSX Transportation had denied permission to production managers.

A lawsuit filed by Jones' parents, who live in Columbia, South Carolina, is currently being tried in Chatham County State Court in Savannah. It says CSX shares equal blame with production managers, who never told Jones and other crew members they were trespassing. They say the railroad should have taken safety precautions to slow the train before the crash.

CSX attorneys have said any evidence that CSX failed to follow internal policies doesn't prove the railroad was negligent. They insist the full blame lies with the "Midnight Rider" production managers. The director, Randall Miller, spent a year in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing, and the film was never finished.

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