Movies are expensive million-dollar productions.
Movie making is a risky business. It always begins with a financial risk, and sometimes the script calls for necessary, calculated risks to take place on set or on location. Stunts, pyrotechnics, firefights: these are just a few things that bring with them an inherent risk when playing big-budget make-believe.
With thousands of things that need to be in place, it’s not uncommon for accidents to happen. Throughout the history of filmmaking, there have been more than a few mistakes on set. A few misplaced items, some car stunts going wrong, or sometimes someone might even get killed. That’s when an accident becomes a tragedy.
Sometimes, these tragedies become high-profile cases, often because it involves a member of the cast. We’re all aware of the accidental shooting of would-be A-lister Brandon Lee, the son of Bruce Lee on the set of The Crow.
Or of course, more recently with the fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins by Alec Baldwin on the set of Rust.
Source: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images
However, there are even more tragedies that didn’t involve the names in the forefront of a film, and these stories often get overlooked or ignored by the media. Here are some you may not have known about:
#1 Cinematographer Chan Kwok-hung was killed on the film set of the Jackie Chan film Skiptrace (2016) after a boat capsized.
Hong Kong police said the vessel flipped about a hundred feet away from shore, and most of the crew were able to swim back to the shore after the accident. Tragically, Chan Kwok-hung was not one of them. He was officially declared deceased in North Lantau Hospital.
Source: CCTV News
The Movie Production Executives Association at the time tried to raise money for Chan Kwok-hung’s family
#2 A Stuntman on F9 had to be put in a medically induced coma after a serious accident while filming.
After a serious accident during a stunt fall of 25 feet which fractured his skull and gave him brain damage, Joe Watts, Vin Diesel’s stunt double, had to be put in a hospital immediately, shutting down the production of the film as well.
He even had to learn to speak again after multiple rehabilitation sessions with various doctors and specialists.
#3 Mike Huber, a crew member working on G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) died while working on a high-powered scissor lift that tipped over.
The unidentified worker was using a scissor lift to dismantle a set when, according to reports, the giant machine tipped over and the man suffered fatal injuries.
Paramount Studios has given condolences to the crew member’s family in a public statement.
#4 An unnamed construction worker was killed working on Blade Runner 2049 (2017) while dismantling a set.
A Hungarian construction worker was killed on the set of Blade Runner 2049 while it was being filmed in Budapest. He was underneath a platform when the set suddenly collapsed on top of him.
He was not part of the film crew but was employed by a subcontractor.
Source: Warner Bros.
His name so far has not been publicized.
Source: Warner Bros.
#5 Another unnamed construction worker was killed on the set of Silence (2016) after a structure collapse.
The accident happened in Taiwan. A structure on the set collapsed, killing 1 person and injuring another 2. Both of the injured were rushed to the hospital, with one of them in serious condition.
Source: Tpg / Getty Images
The production team was held responsible for the incident.
#6 Gabriella Cedillo, an extra on the film Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), was permanently brain damaged after a stunt car accident.
The car she was driving in a Transformers 3 scene was struck by a piece of metal.
It was attached to a tow cable to flip a stunt car. Instead, the metal bar broke free, and it smashed through the windshield as you can see here, and pierced right into her head.
She has since received 18.5 million in settlement money.
#7 David Ritche, a set dresser for Jumper (2008) was crushed and killed by sand, earth, and ice
56 at the time, a veteran of his profession, Ritchie was killed, and another man suffered serious injuries. An investigation was conducted and it was concluded that the sand and earth became unstuck from the wall and crushed Ritchie.
A film company in Vancouver was fined 250,000 dollars for his death.
#8 Olivia Jackson, a stuntwoman, needed to have her arm amputated after being seriously injured on the set of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
While standing in for Mila Jovovich for a high-speed motorcycle stunt, Jackson crashed into a crane-mounted camera. After a 17-day coma, her left arm had to be amputated. She also suffered various other injuries, including a twisted spine and partial paralysis.
Though she won the lawsuit after a 4-year legal battle, her victory was bittersweet as according to South African law, the medical compensation for medical expenses has a cap, which could be at less than 15 thousand dollars a year.
#9 Harry O’Connor, a former Navy SEAL and one of Vin Diesel’s stunt doubles in XXX (2002), died while performing a paragliding stunt for the film.
Source: Columbia Pictures
While filming a paragliding scene in Prague, the man collided with a pillar of the Palacky Bridge, fatally breaking his neck. The accident occurred on O’Connor’s second take of the stunt; his first take was successful and can be seen in the 2002 film.
Rob Cohen, the film’s director claimed that out of the 500 stuntment involved in the film, O’Connor was the only one who suffered any harm.
Source: David Goldman / AP
#10 Sarah Jones, a camera assistant on the film Midnight Rider (which remains unreleased) was struck and killed by a train on set.
Source: ABC NEWS / Via youtube.com
Jones was struck and killed by a train in Wayne County, Georgia, while the Gregg Allman biopic she was working on was filming a sequence involving the tracks. The train came and the crew all evacuated. A prop bed remained on the tracks and when the train collided, the bed pushed Jones into the direction of the train and she was hit by the train’s fuel tank, dying instantly.
Source: David Mcnew / Getty Images
Director Randall Miller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and served jail time.
#11 Joi “SJ” Harris was killed while performing a stunt on a motorcycle for the film Deadpool 2 (2018).
Source: ABC / Via youtube.com
Harris was killed while performing a stunt that involved riding a high-powered Ducati motorcycle down a ramp laid atop a set of stairs. Harris was not properly prepared for the stunt according to multiple people. When it came time to do the scene, Harris lost control while riding the bike down the stairs. The bike hurled her into a building across the street and killed her instantly.
Source: Twitter: @VancityReynolds
Ryan Reynolds’s statement about the accident can be seen here.
#12 David Holmes, a stunt double for Daniel Radcliffe, broke his neck and became paralyzed from the chest down while working on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010).
Source: Warner Bros.
A planned explosion hurled him plummeting to the ground and left him paralyzed from the chest down.
#13 Michael Davidson, a firefighter in New York City, died while battling a fire that broke out on the set of Motherless Brooklyn (2019).
Source: Twitter: @NYPDnews
Michael Davidson’s air tank ran out while he was in a fire after he was separated from his fellow firefighters. The investigation found that the plywood walls made for the set masked the true size of the fire, and the foam used in the sets was what created large quantities of black smoke.
In 2020, a judge ruled that Davidson’s widow, Eileen Davidson, has the power to file a lawsuit against film company Class 5, Inc. (Edward Norton’s production company), as well as the building landlord.