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'Rust' producers hire lawyers for inquiry into deadly shooting as federal investigators interview crew

NBC News logo NBC News 10/27/2021 Diana Dasrath and Dennis Romero
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Federal workplace investigators have begun speaking with the crew of "Rust" after the deadly shooting on the set in New Mexico last week, the production company behind the film said in a letter to workers.

The letter, obtained Tuesday by NBC News, said that the company would coordinate investigators' interviews with crew members and that its lawyers would be present during questioning "when allowed."

"As you may know, it is standard practice for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate workplace deaths," the production company wrote. "OSHA has therefore visited the Rust production set and begun interviewing crew members."

The company also said it had hired a legal team to investigate the shooting, which has indefinitely suspended production of the film in Santa Fe County.

On Thursday, a gun that witnesses said was declared safe by the assistant director went off as actor and "Rust" producer Alec Baldwin was practicing for a scene, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, sheriff's investigators said in search warrant documents.

Director Joel Souza, 48, was injured.

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Producers told crew members that their lawyers would sit in on interviews "to reduce the amount of times you are inconvenienced."

"We know that reliving this tragedy will be hard, but your participation is important for all of us to be able to fully understand what happened, and we encourage you to share your perspective," the company wrote. "It is also typical when investigations are underway to ask witnesses to preserve any information they have — such as emails, texts, drives, paper documents, or other physical items. If you have any question about whether something should be preserved, please err on the side of preservation."

Workplace law experts say non-supervisory workers have a right to speak to OSHA investigators without a company lawyer present.

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