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Crew member dies, another injured after Alec Baldwin fires prop gun on set, officials say

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Producer and actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed a woman and injured a man on the set of the movie “Rust” in New Mexico on Thursday, Santa Fe County sheriff's office said.

The film's director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed, and director Joel Souza, 48, was injured when Baldwin, 63, discharged a prop firearm, the sheriff's office said in a statement Thursday evening.

Image: Director of photography Halyna Hutchins. (Fred Hayes / Getty Images for SAGindie file)
Image: Director of photography Halyna Hutchins. (Fred Hayes / Getty Images for SAGindie file)

Souza was taken to the hospital by ambulance and was receiving emergency care, officials said.

"There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of Rust involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks," a spokesperson for Baldwin said in a statement. "Production has been halted for the time being. The safety of our cast and crew remains our top priority."

A representative for Baldwin declined to comment further.

Images obtained by NBC News showed Baldwin in a parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office. In one photo, the actor is seen bending over by the curbside, and in another speaking on the phone.

Hutchins' representative declined to comment. She was flown by helicopter to University of New Mexico Hospital where she was pronounced dead, the sheriff's office said.

Alec Baldwin leans over in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's offices after being questioned on the shooting. (Jim Weber / The New Mexican)
Alec Baldwin leans over in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff's offices after being questioned on the shooting. (Jim Weber / The New Mexican)

No charges have been filed, the sheriff's office said, adding that the investigation is ongoing. Sheriff's deputies were dispatched around 1:50 p.m. local time (3:50 p.m. ET) after a 911 call about a shooting on the set, the office said.

Frances Fisher, who stars in the movie, tweeted overnight that Souza was out of the hospital, although NBC News could not immediately confirm that the director had been released.

Bonanza Creek Ranch is often used for Western productions. Aerial video from NBC affiliate KOB of Albuquerque showed an old church that appeared to be blocked off.

On Oct. 6, the New Mexico Film Office announced that "Rust" was filming and would be in production until early November in Santa Fe. The production would employ approximately 75 New Mexico crew members, 22 principal actors and 230 "background talent."

The film centers on a 13-year-old boy who goes on the run with his estranged grandfather after he is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a rancher in the 1880s, according to the movie's logline.

Hutchins was originally from Ukraine, and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle surrounded by reindeer and nuclear submarines, according to her website. Before graduating from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, she studied journalism in Ukraine and worked as an investigative journalist with British documentary productions in Europe.

On her Instagram account she describes herself as a "restless dreamer" and "adrenaline junkie."Recent posts included a group shot of the cast and crew on set of "Rust" in New Mexico. Another post showed a video of Hutchins riding a horse, along with the caption: "One of the perks of shooting a western is you get to ride horses on your day off."

Image: Alec Baldwin takes a call in the parking lot outside the sheriff's offices. (Jim Weber / The New Mexican)
Image: Alec Baldwin takes a call in the parking lot outside the sheriff's offices. (Jim Weber / The New Mexican)

Exactly how the incident unfolded Thursday was not clear.

Hollywood weapons expert Larry Zanoff said that when firearms are used as props in the television and movie industry only blanks — cartridges which do not hold bullets — are allowed on set.

Even so, there is a minimum safety distance of 20 feet in front of the muzzle because even with a blank, smoke and burning embers can get propelled out of the gun, he said.

“There should be nothing in front of it when filming is occurring with firearms,” Zanoff said.

The weapons should also be inspected before and after each scene, and there should be a safety briefing as part of the protocol, he added.

“We have a series of guidelines in the industry that govern the use of blank firearms and ammunition on set,” he said. “So my question is of course, firstly, was that protocol followed?”

In 1993, "The Crow" actor Brandon Lee died in a filming accident after he was shot with a prop gun. The son of martial arts film icon Bruce Lee was 28.

A verified account for the late actor, which says in the bio that it is run by his sister Shannon Lee, tweeted late Thursday that "our hearts go out" to Hutchins' and Souza's families and all involved in the incident.

"No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period." the account tweeted.

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a gun loaded with blank and empty cartridges on the set of the "Cover Up" TV series, UPI reported at the time.

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