Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the villain Negan on “The Walking Dead,” but on Friday he was among the many friends, loved ones and industry leaders posting heartfelt tributes in memory of John Bernecker, a stuntman on the hit AMC series.
“Deep sorrow today, and for every tomorrow,” Morgan posted on his official Twitter account. “Love, respect, and condolences to John’s family, and friends. He will be forever missed.”
“The Walking Dead,” a series about survivors navigating a zombie-filled apocalypse, films primarily in Senoia, in Coweta County. Bernecker, 33, was gravely injured in a fall this week and was flown out by medical helicopter.
“They were doing a stunt and something went wrong,” Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday afternoon. “He was flown to Atlanta Medical Center where he was pronounced brain dead July 12 at (6:30 p.m.).”
The show's stars are among the many sharing words of comfort amid their sorrow. Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl, posted this photo and message:
Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, urged supporters to pray for the bereaved:
Austin Amelio, who plays Dwight, was speechless:
Hawk was not sure if family members elected to continue life support efforts for any reason, such as the possibility of organ donation. No official statement had been released by family members or AMC as of Friday evening. Regardless, Bernecker’s official time of death will be recorded as 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Hawk said. He didn’t have details about the circumstances that led to the accident. TMZ reported that Bernecker was attempting a stunt that called for him to fall more than 20 feet but missed a safety cushion, and indicated that lots of questions surround the tragedy.
“John Bernecker died when a planned fall on the set of ‘The Walking Dead’ went horribly wrong, but there are conflicting accounts as to who, if anyone, is to blame,” its report noted.
Bernecker has amassed a long and impressive list of film credits. His work has included locally filmed Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther,” due out next year, and “Rampage,” which just wrapped. Production temporarily halted on “Rampage” when another stuntman, Dave Macomber, was injured.
On-set safety has been a focus of Georgia’s booming film industry since the February 2014 death of Sarah Jones, 27, killed on the set of “Midnight Rider,” which was to have been a biopic about late Southern rocker Gregg Allman. The production did not have permission to film on a train trestle outside Jesup but did so anyway, and Jones died when a train came hurtling down the track.
Director Randall Miller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing in a deal that avoided trial and absolved his wife and business partner, Jody Savin. Miller received a sentence of two years in jail and eight on probation, in addition to a $20,000 fine. He was released early, in March 2016.
This week’s somber news from “The Walking Dead” set happened to coincide with the latest legal action stemming from Jones’ death. Her parents, Richard and Elizabeth, settled with numerous plaintiffs named in a wrongful death suit but CSX Transportation, which owns the tracks where the unauthorized production work was taking place, is mounting a defense.
The trial is taking in Chatham County, where both the defense and and plaintiffs’ attorneys rested their case on Friday, WTOC reported.