Last Wednesday, the stuntman was fatally injured during production of the AMC show when he fell head first onto concrete about seven metres below after appearing to try to grab a railing to stop his fall, an assistant director told authorities.
Coweta County coroner Richard Hawk has said Bernecker, 33, was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m. July 12. Bernecker died from injuries suffered in a fall some five hours earlier on the hit show’s set in Senoia, about 56 kilometres south of Atlanta, Hawk said.
Assistant director Matthew Goodwin told a responding officer that Bernecker was supposed to fall from a balcony over a railing onto “a pad made of a layer of 22-inch boxes, port-a-pit pads, and a large pad,” according to a report from the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office.
Austin Amelio, the only actor on the balcony with Bernecker at the time of the fall, told the officer he asked Bernecker if he’d ever done a fall like that before. The stuntman said he’d done a few but never from that high up, and he “seemed a little nervous,” Amelio told the officer.
Filming began after Bernecker gave a thumbs-up to signal he was ready, Goodwin said.
The report also says that Bernecker got most of the way over the railing and then appeared to try to stop the fall by grabbing the railing with both hands, but he hit the balcony instead, causing him to release his grip and spin upside down as he fell.
Bernecker landed a few inches from the pad and an on-set medic immediately responded and requested that 911 be called.
The stuntman was flown by helicopter to an Atlanta hospital.
AMC said in a statement Friday that Bernecker’s family had decided to donate his organs.
“John Bernecker’s family has decided that he will be removed from life support, following organ donation,” AMC said. “We are deeply saddened by this loss and our hearts and prayers are with John’s family, friends and colleagues during this extremely difficult time.”
We are deeply saddened by the loss of John Bernecker. He will always be part of the TWD family. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.
— The Walking Dead AMC (@WalkingDead_AMC) July 15, 2017
The Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple released a statement on Bernecker’s death.
“Our production is heartbroken by the tragic loss of John Bernecker,” Gimple said. “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.”
Transformers: The Last Knight director Michael Bay released a statement in support of the cast and crew of The Walking Dead and the “Stunt Community.”
— Michael Bay (@michaelbay) July 14, 2017
Bernecker performed stunt work on numerous films over the past few years, including Marvel’s Black Panther, Rampage, The Fate of the Furious, Logan, The Hunger Games and Get Out.
—With files from the Associated Press