'Fast And Furious 9' producers fined RM4.7mil after stunt performer suffers 'life-changing' injuries


By AGENCY

Joe Watts suffered 'life-changing' injuries while filming a fight scene in July 2019 for the ninth instalment of the 'Fast And Furious' franchise. Photo: Handout

The production company behind F9 has been fined about US$1mil (RM4.7mil) after a stunt performer was severely injured in an accident on the set of the Universal Pictures action film.

District Judge Talwinder Buttar imposed the £800,000 (RM4.7mil) penalty and ordered FF9 Pictures Limited to pay £14,752.85 (RM87,049) in costs at Luton Magistrates Court in Britain, according to a news release published by the country’s Health and Safety Executive.

The punishment came after the production company pleaded guilty to breaching the Britain's Health and Safety at Work Act.

An investigation conducted by the Health and Safety Executive found that stunt performer Joe Watts suffered “life-changing” injuries while filming a fight scene in July 2019 for the ninth installment of the Fast And Furious franchise at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden.

The HSE reported that Watts plummeted 25 feet (7.6m) and landed on the concrete floor after a line on his stunt vest became detached. Watts sustained a fractured skull and severe traumatic brain injury, which left him permanently impaired and disabled, according to the HSE.

After investigating the accident, the HSE determined that FF9 Pictures Ltd, whose parent company is Universal Pictures, “failed to address the potential issue of a rope snap or a link failure” while shooting the scene. The government agency reported that the company did not take steps to ensure that the link had been properly secured and tightened, nor did it check the link for signs of wear and tear between takes.

Additionally, the HSE discovered that the link manufacturer’s website had deemed it “forbidden for use” as personal protective equipment and that Watts’ harness had not been inspected in six months, violating inspection requirements. The agency also concluded that FF9 Pictures Ltd failed to extend the crash matting “needed to mitigate the consequences of an unintended fall” after changes were made to the stunt sequence and set.

Watts “could have easily been killed,” HSE inspector Roxanne Barker said in a statement. “In stunt work, it is not about preventing a fall but minimising the risk of an injury.” Buttar expressed her shock at the lack of adequate crash matting and remarked during the sentencing that Watts was lucky to be alive, according to the news release.

Watts also sued FF9 Pictures in 2022 for personal injury. Representatives for Universal Pictures did not immediately respond The LA Times’ request for comment.

Multiple on-set accidents have rocked the entertainment industry in recent years.

In December 2019, an Atlanta jury awarded US$8.6mil (RM40.1mil) in damages to the family of a stunt performer who died after falling 22 feet (6.7m) off a balcony and landing on unpadded ground while working on the hit TV series The Walking Dead. Two years later, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured by a bullet from a gun handled as a prop by actor Alec Baldwin on the New Mexico set of the film Rust.

In January 2023, New Mexico prosecutors charged Baldwin with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death. Those charges have since been dropped. Prosecutors in October said they would ask a grand jury to consider whether Baldwin should again be criminally charged.

Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez Reed also was charged with involuntary manslaughter. – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

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