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Coroner: 'The Walking Dead' stuntman dies after on-set fall

Associated Press logo Associated Press 7/14/2017 By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — A stuntman for "The Walking Dead" has died after falling on the Georgia set of the hit television show. It's the first on-set death in the U.S. in nearly three years.

John Bernecker, 33, died about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at an Atlanta hospital after falling on the show's set in Senoia, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Atlanta, Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk said Friday.

Bernecker died from blunt force trauma and his death is considered accidental, Hawk said.

"The Walking Dead," the often-gory AMC show based on a comic series about people fighting to survive a zombie apocalypse, is filming its eighth season.

Phone and email messages left for AMC representatives were not immediately returned Friday.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation, agency spokesman Michael D'Aquino said in an email Friday.

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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