How did the filming of a music video end in tragedy?

Johann Ofner worked as a stuntmanImage copyright
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Johann Ofner worked as a stuntman

In an infamous filming accident in 1993, actor Brandon Lee died after being shot in the abdomen on the set of The Crow.

Lee, 28, was struck by a bullet fragment while filming a scene. He succumbed to his injuries hours later.

It emerged the revolver, loaded with a blank cartridge, had most likely retained the fragment from earlier filming.

More than two decades on, another fatal set shooting in Australia has stirred memories of the Lee incident – although its exact circumstances remain unclear.

Stuntman Johann Ofner, also 28, was shot on Monday while filming a video for hip hop act Bliss N Eso in central Brisbane.

Film crew members and paramedics administered CPR, but Mr Ofner died at the scene.

What police say

Queensland Police have not said what type of weapon or ammunition was involved, but Detective Inspector Tom Armitt said several firearms were found at the scene.

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Police outside the Brisbane bar where Mr Ofner died

“We’re making further inquiries regarding the supplier of the firearms used [and] the manufacturer of the simulated ammunition,” he said on Monday.

“So all those sorts of investigations will be undertaken in order to present the brief to the coroner.”

On Tuesday afternoon, police said they were still interviewing witnesses and gathering both CCTV and film crew footage.

“A ballistics test is also being conducted as is as a post-mortem examination, however these results may take some time to be returned to police,” they said in a statement.

Police were also working with Queensland Workplace Health and Safety, and the coroner’s office.

What the band says

Bliss N Eso on Tuesday said they were “devastated” about the death of Mr Ofner, a father of one.

In a separate statement, the band’s management said there was a shotgun, two handguns and an imitation firearm at the scene.

“Johann was tragically fatally injured when a prop gun was discharged as part of filming a scene in Bliss n Eso’s video clip,” the statement said.

“The gun was loaded with blanks, not live ammunition.

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Mr Ofner posted this video on his Instagram account

“The exact cause of Johann’s fatal injury is still to be confirmed, but as the gun was loaded with blanks, not live ammunition, the cause was not a bullet or live round.”

The band said a production company had employed the stunt group responsible for hiring both Mr Ofner and a licensed armourer.

The armourer was on scene at the time and the filming had “all of the appropriate permits”, the statement said.

Shortly before his death, Mr Ofner posted on Instagram a video from the set that showed props including guns, money and casino chips.

Over footage of the weapons, he wrote “faulty props”, but did not elaborate further.

Are blanks dangerous?

A blank is a type of cartridge that contains gunpowder and wadding or paper, but no bullet.

However, experts warn blanks can be highly dangerous, especially for anyone near a gun’s muzzle. Local media outlets, citing sources, have reported Mr Ofner was shot at close range.

“Unfortunately a lot of people think blanks are safe. They aren’t. They’re an explosive charge, they’re highly focused… and they have a huge amount of energy,” theatrical armourer John Bowring told the BBC.

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Bliss N Eso have won several Aria awards, the Australian equivalent of the Grammys

“The supersonic gas that comes out of the muzzle, if the bullet is not there, has more energy than the fired bullet. So the gas could literally rip a hole through your body.”

Fellow armourer Brendan Byrne also said blanks had the potential to be deadly.

“On a film set, you never want to directly point the gun at an actor, which a lot of people tend to do because that’s the best angle,” he told the BBC.

“But you [should] point it off centre and adjust your camera angle.”

‘Wake-up call’

Mr Byrne said licensed armourers were trained to handle weapons safely. This included their cleaning, storage and transportation.

But the relevant industry union in Australia, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, has said it will closely monitor the investigation by authorities.

“There have been no instances of fatalities to our knowledge in the recent past, and that is because we have very rigorous standards in relation to safety,” spokeswoman Zoe Angus told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Ms Angus told the broadcaster she did not know if those standards were followed.

“This is a wake-up call for those safety guidelines to be reviewed and extended into – for example – online productions, music videos, the whole other raft of screen production sector,” she said.

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