Coroner urges code of conduct for armourers following death of Johann Ofner

Stuntman fatally shot in 2017 died due to the armourer supplying an illegal weapon and ammunition, says coroner.

Stuntman and former Ninja Warrior contestant Johann Ofner fatally shot during the filming of a music clip in 2017 died due to the armourer supplying an illegal weapon and ammunition, a coroner has found.

Ofner died after being shot with a blank shotgun round at Brisbane basement bar Brooklyn Standard Bar during filming of a video clip for Bliss n Eso.

It is with great sadness that MEAA acknowledges today’s Queensland Coroner’s findings concerning the death of our former member, Johann Ofner, in January 2017.

Coroner Donald MacKenzie said armourer Warren Ritchie, who supplied the sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun and the ammunition responsible for the fatal shooting, had since died of natural causes.

But he said had Mr Ritchie been alive, he would have faced a range of charges including manslaughter, unlawful possession of a hand gun, and a breach of workplace health and safety causing death.

Mr McKenzie recommended the Queensland government review the laws around weapons relating to blank fire munitions and police reviewing the role of theatrical armourers, with a focus on introducing standards for qualification, including training and testing.

He also recommended the Office of Industrial Relations create a code of practice for armourers and the Queensland Police Minister liaise with interstate counterparts to ensure a consistent Australia-wide legislative code for theatrical armourers, outlawing the use of operable firearms and non-blank firing weapons in theatrical performances.

“Our hearts go out to Johann’s family and loved ones. He suffered a fate no worker should confront – being killed in the performance of his professional duties,” the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance said in a statement.

“Johann’s death has had a lasting impact on Australia’s community of stunt performers. They remain appalled by Johann’s tragic and needless death.

“MEAA will closely review the Coroner’s findings and where necessary, work within the screen industry to ensure that the lessons learned from this awful event are heard loud and clear.

“The message from Johann’s death and the incident on the set of Rust in late 2021 is clear: safety on set is critical. Those responsible for filming, especially producers, need to take safety seriously and implement firearms safety procedures without equivocation.

“When firearms are to be used, pre-planning must occur and everyone on set must be aware of the rules and be guided by professional theatrical armourers. No-one should have a gun capable of emitting a projectile discharged towards them. The screen safety guidelines make this abundantly clear.

“The time has truly arrived when regulators and film professionals must come together to fix the patchwork of laws and regulations purporting to govern safety on film and television sets throughout Australia. We must work towards consistent national laws that reflect best practice when it comes to the use of firearms in screen productions.”

Nine initially did not screen Ofner’s Ninja run out of respect, but included an on screen dedication.

Source: ABC

2 Responses

  1. The time has come to end the use of any firearm on set that is capable of firing either a loaded bullet or blank. Best practice for anything safety related on set is to reduce the chance of harm 100% by either removing the dangerous element entirely or finding a solution to achieve the same effect without putting cast, crew or the public in any harm. The only 100% safe way to do this is to remove the muzzle flash effect of a gun firing using blanks. The effect can be put in easily and cheaply these days using CGI and sound effects in post production. It actually looks better too as the size and brightness of the muzzle flash can be altered easily as to the creative’s wish. Any actor worthy of their union card should be able to mime the kick back of the gun firing a blank. CGI may be slightly more expensive than hiring an armourer to shoot blanks but much cheaper than the cost of a life. I can’t think of one good reason to fire a blank on set these days and if it’s banned, good!

  2. A recent ABC conversations episode featuring stuntwomen Ky Furneaux gave an interesting look into the mindset of filmmakers and the stunt coordinators who try to get that extra thrill for the cinema audiences. Ky gave an example of a stunt set up for a Marvel film where real cars were shot into the air using canons and a petrol filled explosive ignited, their job was to avoid these flaming cars tumbling down on top of them, she had one scene where she was on her back being dragged along to safety while one of these cars tumbled above them, she was dependent on her stunt colleague for her safety and she was the only one able to see which direction the car was going. Stunt coordinators dream up these new ideas and only the professionalism and skill of the stunt performers makes them happen.

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