The shot fired by Alec Baldwin on the set of “Rust” that would go on to hit director Joel Souza and fatally strike cinematographer Halyna Hutchins narrowly missed another person, gaffer Serge Svetnoy, by “an inch or two, possibly less.” Stunned from the explosion, Svetnoy — a close friend of Hutchins’ — rushed to the cinematographer’s aid, cradling her head and talking to her as her consciousness faded over the next 30 minutes.
That account of the tragedy on the New Mexico set of “Rust” last month was included in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Svetnoy’s lawyers on Wednesday. It’s believed to be the first suit filed in connection to the incident; Svetnoy alleges negligence by Baldwin and his fellow producers, the film’s financiers, armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, first AD David Halls, and a long list of others.
The gaffer is asking the court to award an unspecified amount of damages from the defendants.
Svetnoy alleges that a desire to cut costs by producers led them to hire an insufficient number of crew members and hire an inexperienced armorer in Gutierrez Reed. They failed to send out traditional daily safety bulletins, declined requests for weapons training days, failed to react appropriately to two prior accidental discharges during production, and “did nothing” to stop recreational shooting that happened on set.
While “there was no reason for a live bullet to be placed in that .45 Colt revolver or to be present anywhere on the ‘Rust’ set,” Svetnoy alleges that prop master Sarah Zachry failed to inspect that gun before handing it to Gutierrez Reed, who either failed to inspect it “or loaded the Colt Revolver with at least one round of live ammunition.” Halls, too, failed to check it before erroneously alerting the set that the gun was “cold,” and Baldwin failed to check the gun when Halls handed it to him.
He alleges that ammunition was left unattended on a prop truck, and the gun was left unsecured on a prop cart for a “period of time” before the rehearsal that would turn deadly. An inspection of the gun could have revealed the presence of live rounds versus dummy rounds, which have visual cues that differentiate them.
According to the suit, Svetnoy and Hutchins became close friends and colleagues over the last five years. The pair shared an Eastern European background; Svetnoy referred to Hutchins as “Galla,” the native Ukrainian’s nickname. They previously worked together on “Archenemy,” an indie superhero movie released last year.
Right before the October 21 shooting, Svetnoy alleges he was no more than seven feet from Baldwin as he rehearsed for a scene in which he removed the Colt from his holster and pointed it toward the camera. After hearing a gunshot, Svetnoy “felt a strange and terrifying whoosh of what felt like pressurized air from his right. He felt what he believed was gunpowder and other residual materials from the gun directly strike the right side of his face and scratch the lenses of the eyeglasses he was wearing.”
Svetnoy then turned and saw Hutchins on the ground, holding her lower torso area as Souza screamed “what the f— was that!” and Baldwin repeatedly yelled, “What happened?”
Svetnoy then cradled Hutchins’ head and spoke to her as he noticed his hand covered with her blood. Set medic Cherlyn Schaefer arrived within minutes and tended to Hutchins’ two wounds. She charged Svetnoy with ensuring that an oxygen mask remained secured to Hutchins’ face, as the gaffer continued talking to the cinematographer.
“As he did so, he saw Ms. Hutchins eyes becoming unclear, her face becoming grey, and her lips beginning to turn black. The next 20-30 minutes felt like the longest of Plaintiff’s life as he tried to aid and comfort Ms. Hutchins, watching helplessly as her consciousness faded inexorably away,” the suit reads.
Hutchins was soon transported to an area hospital and later pronounced dead.
Shortly after news of the lawsuit broke Wednesday, Gutierrez Reed’s attorney released a statement alleging that the armorer is being “framed” and that evidence was “tampered with,” according to Variety.
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office; no charges have been filed. In an interview with ABC News this week, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said there is no evidence of sabotage on set, nor does she believe it is a possibility. She added that investigators do not yet have an answer about how live ammunition ended up on set.