The Walking Dead stuntman John Bernecker recently died after falling while on set. While his death might come as as a shock, stunt performers are severely injured due to stunts gone wrong more often than you would think.
Stunt performers rarely receive the recognition that they deserve. A stunt performer has many hats, from doubling for a lead character, to doing background work, to being the unnamed actor who randomly does eighteen stunt tricks.
Being a stunt performer takes a lot of skill and training. Having a career as a stunt performer can be extremely dangerous though, with stunt performers regularly being injured or even dying. While most injuries are minor, there are a good handful that end up being serious, with the stunt performers sometimes even dying during a stunt.
Successful stunt performers are in demand, and usually work on multiple movies. The more these stunt performers do stunts, the more times they are putting themselves in danger, so it’s no wonder that injuries happen as often as they do.
From becoming paralyzed, to falling to their deaths, stunt performers put themselves at risk every day they work.
Here are 15 Times Stunt Performers Were Seriously Injured or Died On Set.
15. Daniel Radcliffe’s Stunt Double Became Paralyzed (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1)
While working on a flying scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double David Holmes was on the receiving end of a staged explosion. He hit a wall and then fell. Almost immediately, Holmes said he couldn’t feel his legs.
Holmes had been Daniel Radcliffe’s stunt double throughout the entire series, and both Holmes and Radcliffe had become close friends, so it was shocking to Radcliffe to see such a grave injury occur to one of his friends.
Hitting the wall with such force is the reason why Holmes became paralyzed. After the accident, he was taken to a hospital where he was told he had broken his neck and that the damage was irreversible. He has become tetraplegic, which essentially means that he is paralyzed in both his legs, as well as his arms.
14. A Stuntman Had a Chunk of His Scalp Torn Off (The Avengers)
Jeremy Fitzgerald is high in demand as stuntman, who has been in movies such as Logan, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Spider- Man 3. Specifically, he’s been in many of Marvel movies, and was injured in The Avengers.
Needing to fall thirty feet off of a building, Fitzgerald got tripped up– his foot got caught while falling, which resulted in his head slamming into a brick. Fitzgerald tore off a giant part of his scalp. Like the true pro that he is, though, he simply put a bandage on it and went back to work instead of going to the hospital.
Apparently, he was actually pretty luck to only have part of his scalp ripped off. Fitzgerald supposedly was close to falling on an extremely sharp rain gutter, which could have resulted in him being a lot worse off.
13. A Pilot Was Killed During a Stunt (Top Gun)
While not necessarily a stuntman in the traditional fashion, Art Scholl was known for being an ace for his pilot skills. Scholl’s flying capabilities led him to doing aerobatic stunts and navigating camera planes for major films, including Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dooms and The A-Team.
While hired as a stunt pilot and camera plane pilot for the movie Top Gun, Scholl’s camera plane suddenly went directly into the Pacific Ocean. Scholl had intended for the plane to spin, but he failed to recover from it afterwards.
No one really knows why his plane ended up in the ocean. It was most likely due to some malfunction, since Scholl was a professional and knew what to do in such situations. The last thing he said into his radio was, “I have a problem. I have a real problem.”
12. A Stuntman had a Fatal Heart Attack (Red Heat)
Red Heat is a movie from the late 1980s that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi. It was about a Russian cop matched up with a Chicago cop in yet another typical Schwarzenegger movie from that decade.
During filming, stunt coordinator Bennie E. Dobbins had a heart attack. Dobbins had done stunts for Star Trek, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Having done stunts for most of his career, he had transitioned into the role of stunt coordinator later on in his career.
Dobbins had obtained a bad case of pneumonia during filming, which was the direct cause of his heart attack. He was only fifty five years old when he passed away. It came as a shock to everyone, and the movie was dedicated to him in his honor.
11. Bruce Willis’ Stunt Double Fell 25 Feet (Live Free or Die Hard)
Larry Rippenkroeger was one of over two hundred stunt performers used in Live Free or Die Hard. Rippenkroeger was Bruce Willis’ stunt double, and is one of the most experienced stunt actors in Hollywood, having been in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Breaking Bad, and Iron Man.
Rippenkroeger fell twenty-five feet off of a fire escape during a stunt. He was knocked unconscious, broke bones in his face and a bunch of his ribs, fractured both of his wrists, and had a deflated lung. This actually resulted in the production being temporarily shut down until they could figure out what to do.
Bruce Willis and Larry Rippenkroeger were friends, so Willis paid for Rippenkroeger’s parents to stay in a hotel near the hospital he was being treated at, and Willis frequently visited his stunt double while at the hospital.
10. A Stuntwoman Bounced Off a Pillar Onto Concrete (Back to the Future Part II)
Another fall occurred in Back to the Future Part II when stuntwoman Cheryl Wheeler-Dixon was accidentally thrown off a pillar before falling thirty feet onto concrete. As another professional, Wheeler-Dixon has done stunts for films such as Batman & Robin, Thor, and Die Hard 2.
Lisa McCullough was part of the stunt team that chased Marty McFly while on hover-boards. When it came time to do the scene that involved the stunt team crashing into the clock tower, McCullough didn’t feel comfortable doing the stunt after multiple failed practice attempts.
Wheeler-Dixon took McCullough’s place. She was nervous, but went through with it. She ended up hitting a pillar during the stunt and falling to the ground. Though she could have died, she thankfully escaped with wrist injuries and a serious face injury.
9. A Stuntman was Stabbed by a Bayonet (Fury)
While there isn’t a consensus on who the stunt performer was, Fury made news when one of their stunt performers was accidentally stabbed with a bayonet during a filming shoot. The thirty five year old stunt performer was immediately rushed to the hospital after the event.
A bayonet is a blade attached to the muzzle of a riffle, and isn’t something to mess with if you don’t know what you’re doing since they tend to be pretty sharp. In this instance, two stuntmen were practicing an action sequence when one of them accidentally jabbed the other with the bayonet.
8. Chloë Grace Moretz’s Stunt Double Cracked Her Head Open (Kick-Ass 2)
Chloë Grace Moretz was in her mid teens when she filmed Kick-Ass 2. Therefore, her stunt double Talila Craig was also just as young. So, it’s scary to think about her stunt double, who was thrown against a wall, which resulted in her head being cracked open.
Talila Craig had been doing stunts almost all her life. She was Sam’s stunt double in Love Actually and has done stunts for Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She managed to make a name for herself in Hollywood at a young age.
During a fight sequence, Craig was thrown against a wall and her head cracked open against a bar. This was due to a hydraulic system, which had pushed her an inch or two too far. Thankfully, she recovered and has continued her career in stunt performing.
7. Milla Jovovich’s Stunt Double Had Her Arm Amputated After A Motorcycle Accident (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter)
Olivia Jackson is a well-known and highly used stuntwoman who has done stunts for Guardians of the Galaxy, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She made news in 2015, when she was seriously injured while being Milla Jovovich’s stunt double in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
During filming, Jackson crashed her motorcycle into a metal camera arm. She wasn’t wearing a helmet, because the scene required her to show her face and head. Jackson ended up having serious and life-changing injuries to her back, neck, and shoulder. Her spine became extremely twisted, and she now has a very large neck scar.
She also was put into a medically induced coma and wasn’t taken out of it until seventeen days later. Her left arm was paralyzed and withered, and she later had her injured arm amputated.
6. Jason Robards’ Stunt Double Was Dragged to His Death by a Horse (Comes a Horseman)
Comes a Horseman is a 1978 film that starred Jane Fonda, James Caan, and Jason Robaard. The film was about Jane Fonda’s character Ella Connors, who felt pressure about selling her cattle farm.
During a scene that involved Jason Robaard’s character being dragged by a horse to his death, stuntman Jim Sheppard was both sadly and ironically dragged to his death. The horse who was dragging Sheppard didn’t stay on course and instead, switched directions.
The horse going off course caused Sheppard to hit his head on a fence post. This scene is still in the movie, ands is cut off right before Sheppard hits his head on the fence post. So, you can essentially see Sheppard in his final moments in the movie. Rest in peace.
5. A Stuntman Had to Have His Leg Amputated Below the Knee After a Boating Accident (Wind)
Stunt coordinator Chris Anderson was eating his lunch while on break during the production of Wind, a movie about sailors who have the desire to win a sailing prize called the American Cup. While on his lunch break, Anderson decided to sit on one of the yatch. In a freak accident, one of the thirty foot yachts collided into the boat that Anderson was sitting on.
Anderson had been in the stunt business for a long time, and has done stunts for both King Kong and Mad Max. After the boat accident, Anderson had his right leg amputated below the knee. Since then, he has still been working, and has proved to the world that nothing will stop him when it comes to his passion of stunt performing and coordinating.
4. One Stuntman was Killed and Another was Left in Critical Condition After an Explosion (The Expendables 2)
The Expendables 2 had some serious issues when it came to their stunts. While filming in Bulgaria, stuntman Kun Lieu was killed during a scene that involved an explosion, and stuntman Nuo Sun was seriously injured after the explosion as well.
Nuo Sun is a professional in the business, having done work on Ant-Man, John Wick, and even working on the upcoming Aquaman film. He was Jet Li’s stunt double in the film. The accident resulted in him having injuries in his neck, head, arms, legs, as well as his nervous system, and he ended up suing Millennium Films for negligence.
As for Kun Lieu, his family obviously had to deal with the death of their loved one. Millennium Films came out with a statement, which said: “our deepest condolences go to the family of Kun Lieu. His passing is tragic.”
3. A Stuntman Hit A Car Head On (The Hangover Part II)
The Hangover Part II involved a lot more stunts than you might realize. Scott McLean was part of the stunt team, and has done stunt work for movies like The Matrix, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, and Ghost Rider.
In The Hangover Part II, McLean was doing a stunt that involved multiple taxi cabs. He was acting as Ed Helms’ stunt double and was leaning out of the taxi window when he hit another taxi head on. He ended up having flesh torn from his skull and a giant gash on the right side of his head.
2. Angela Bassett’s Stunt Double Fell to Her Death (Vampire in Brooklyn)
Vampire in Brooklyn is exactly what it sounds like: a vampire who lives in Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, the movie did horribly. Starring both Eddie Murphy and Angela Bassett, it’s not as if the film was lacking when it came to it’s actors, it was simply just a bad movie.
Bassett’s stunt double, Sonja Davis, fell to her death during filming. During a stunt, she fell forty-two feet. According to the LA Times, the family sued “Paramount Studios and Eddie Murphy Productions for $10 million, alleging that the film crew failed to provide proper safety equipment.”
1. Vin Diesel’s Stunt Double Was Killed After Falling Onto a Bridge (xXx)
In the 2002 the film xXx, Vin Diesel’s stunt double Harry O’Connor was killed instantly during filming shoot while doing aerial stunts. O’Connor had been attempting to rappel down a parasailing line. His goal was to land on a submarine, but, instead, he hit a bridge while going down at high speed.
Harry O’Connor had been in the stunt business for a while, having done stunts for The Perfect Storm and having been the skydiving coordinator for Charlie’s Angels. He was forty four years old when he died instantly after hitting the bridge.
O’Connor wasn’t known for doing a lot of stunts, but he was very experienced. He had been a former Navy SEAL, so stunt performing was the second career that he perused after he retired.
Which stunt injury or death shocked you the most? Let us know in the comments section!
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