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ATLANTA — A stuntman for "The Walking Dead" has died from injuries suffered in a fall on the Georgia set of the hit television show, the first on-set death in the U.S. in three years.
Coweta County Coroner Richard Hawk confirmed Friday that John Bernecker, 33, died about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at an Atlanta hospital. Bernecker fell earlier Wednesday on the show's set in Senoia, about 35 miles south of Atlanta.
Hawk said Bernecker died from blunt force trauma and that his death is considered accidental.
"The Walking Dead," the often-gory AMC show based on a comic series that chronicles the lives of people fighting to survive a zombie apocalypse, is filming its eighth season.
Phone and email messages left for AMC representatives were not immediately returned Friday. The Twitter account for "The Walking Dead" posted Saturday that Bernecker "will always be part of the TWD family. Our hearts go out to his family and friends."
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation, agency spokesman Michael D'Aquino said in an email Friday.
Bernecker's passing is the first on-set death in the United States since an audio technician for the show "Cops" was killed during a shootout in Omaha, Nebraska, in August 2014. Bryce Dion, 38, was killed while filming an attempted armed robbery at a fast-food restaurant when a stray bullet from an Omaha police officer slipped past his bulletproof vest.
Earlier that year, in February 2014, Sarah Jones, 27, died when a freight train slammed into a film crew shooting "Midnight Rider," a movie about the life of singer Gregg Allman. The crash happened on a Georgia railroad bridge where the crew was filming actor William Hurt in a hospital bed placed on the tracks, though owner CSX Transportation had denied permission to production managers.
A lawsuit filed by Jones' parents, who live in Columbia, South Carolina, is currently being tried in Chatham County State Court in Savannah. It says CSX shares equal blame with production managers who never told Jones and other crew members they were trespassing. They say the railroad should have taken safety precautions to slow the train before the crash.
CSX attorneys have said any evidence that CSX failed to follow internal policies doesn't prove the railroad was negligent. They insist the full blame lies with the "Midnight Rider" production managers. The ill-fated film's director, Randall Miller, spent a year in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing.
The film was never finished.