“Criminal actions” led to the death of a stuntman | Western magazine

A stuntman filming an underground poker game scene for a hip-hop song has been shot with a sawed-off gun that should never have been on set, a Brisbane coroner has found.

“An accumulation of errors” resulted in the tragic death of Johann Ofner, said coroner Donald MacKenzie in the conclusions of the inquest delivered Tuesday in Brisbane.

“The essential lesson of this tragedy is that Mr Ofner died as a result of criminal acts,” he added.

“His death was preventable.

The shots were fired at the 28-year-old’s chest while filming a video for hip-hop group Bliss N Eso’s song Friend like You on January 23, 2017.

Ofner, a highly skilled stuntman, was hired by three Japan-based artists for the video based on a $50 bill’s journey through a child’s life, a poker game and an old man.

The shooting at Brooklyn Standard Bar in Brisbane involved a shooting after an argument broke out during an underground poker game.

During the scene, Ofner – a grand finalist on Australian TV show Ninja Warrior – approached another stuntman to whip him with a pistol.

A second man pulled a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun from his belt, firing from his hip to hit Ofner at close range.

Ofner wore a jerk vest attached to a rope used to pull him back, simulating the impact of the shotgun blast catapulting him backwards.

The actors went through several sequences before being given firearms.

The serviceable pistol used to shoot Ofner was supplied by experienced and licensed theater gunsmith Warren Ritchie, but was not licensed for productions.

Ritchie had also illegally obtained homemade shotgun shells that contained igniter powder, fabric wadding, and a plastic casing that was actually a projectile.

The jump rope was pulled when the shots were fired with the gun barrel within 1.45 meters of Ofner’s chest.

An autopsy revealed that he died of two projectile wounds to the left side of his chest.

Mr MacKenzie said the guns supplied under Ritchie’s license should have been blank or permanently unusable.

“Obviously the shortened shotgun that was fired killing the deceased was neither,” he added.

“The use of plastic wad and fiber filler in the shell of the shotgun cartridge created a projectile, so this sawed-off shotgun could not be considered unusable.”

Ritchie – who died of natural causes in August 2017 – was reportedly charged with manslaughter and other charges, Mr MacKenzie said.

“Given such grave consequences for any theatrical gunsmith in Queensland, were he to repeat Mr Ritchie’s recklessness, it is hoped that this tragic death and the publicity that accompanies it will act as a paragon of deterrence,” a- he added.

Homemade ammunition supplier Adam Corless was fined $2,500 in 2018 after pleading guilty to an explosives charge.

“He taught himself how to reload ammunition after years of handling firearms, on the internet, through literature and from his employer,” Mr MacKenzie said.

“Mr. Corless was at no time advised that the shotgun shells would be used to discharge into an enclosed space or into a shotgun that was going to be aimed at a person.”

Mr MacKenzie recommended that the Queensland Government review relevant arms legislation, establish a Queensland Police Section to investigate theatrical gunsmiths and liaise with interstate counterparts on a consistent legislative code Australia-wide banning the use of serviceable firearms and non-blank firearms in theatrical performances.

He called on the Office of Industrial Relations to consider creating a code of practice for gunsmiths and the use of firearms in the film industry.

Responding to the findings, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said the industry needed to work towards consistent national gun laws in film productions to fix the “patchwork of laws and regulations”.

“Filming managers, especially producers, must take safety seriously and implement unequivocal gun safety procedures,” a union spokesperson said.

Australian Associated Press

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