We reported the tragic news yesterday that Walking Dead stuntman John Bernecker passed away after suffering a serious head injury following an on-set fall. The stuntman's family has now released a statement on the website for the LifeLink Foundation, an organ donor organization that operates in Georgia, where the hit zombie series is shot, along with Puerto Rico and Florida. Here's what John Bernecker's family had to say in their statement.
"The family of John Bernecker is heartbroken to confirm that John has passed away from injuries sustained earlier this week. 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."
Deadline reports that the stuntman passed away at the Atlanta Medical Center, after falling over 30 feet to the concrete floor while rehearsing a fight scene. This report claims that it was believed to be the first stunt-related death in America in 17 years. Walking Dead production was shut down following the accident, and it's unclear at this time when production will resume. Shortly after the family made their statement, the labor union SAG-AFTRA released another statement about this untimely death.
"SAG-AFTRA offers its deepest condolences to the family of John Bernecker, an accomplished stunt performer who passed away today after a fall on the set of The Walking Dead in Georgia. This tragic and untimely loss of a member of the SAG-AFTRA family is heartbreaking, and our thoughts are with his loved ones and his friends and colleagues in the Georgia production community. The safety of our members is paramount. We will work with the authorities and closely monitor their investigations into this tragic incident."
Both SAG-AFTRA and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have opened investigations into Bernecker's death. An OSHA spokesperson told Deadline that their investigation could take up to six months to complete, although it isn't ultimately clear how long the SAG-AFTRA investigation may take. The Coweta County Coroner's office and the sheriff's department both ruled the death an accident and have closed their cases on the matter. Here's what The Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple had to say about the stuntman's death in his statement.
"Our production is heartbroken by the tragic loss of John Bernecker. John's work on The Walking Dead and dozens of other movies and shows will continue to entertain and excite audiences for generations. We are grateful for his contributions, and all of us send our condolences, love, and prayers to John's family and friends."
It hasn't been confirmed yet if this accident will affect The Walking Dead Comic-Con panel, which is scheduled to take place in Hall H on Friday, July 21 from 12:15 PM to 1:15 PM. Stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Chandler Riggs, Seth Gilliam, Alanna Masterson, and Khary Payton join executive producer and showrunner Scott M. Gimple, executive producer Robert Kirkman, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer Dave Alpert, and special effects makeup supervisor and executive producer Greg Nicotero. Hopefully we'll have more on The Walking Dead in the near future.