An illegally modified “live” shotgun loaded with “unlawful ammunition” was never test-fired before a stuntman was fatally shot on the set of a hip-hop music video, a Brisbane court has been told.
An inquest has heard calls for an overhaul of the entertainment industry’s firearm and safety restrictions after Johann Ofner was fatally shot at close range in 2017 by a “prop gun” – later identified as a live sawn-off, 12-gauge shotgun.
The shot was fired directly at the devoted father’s chest during filming for a video for a Bliss N Eso production on January 23, 2017 at a Brisbane bar.
The sawn-off shotgun used in the video’s gunfight sequence was never test-fired before filming, the inquest was told on Monday.
The production also failed to employ a safety supervisor or a qualified first aid officer to ensure workplace health and safety regulations were followed.
At least eight firearms including blank-fire weapons and replica automatic weapons incapable of discharging projectiles were used alongside the sawn-off shotgun.
On the day of filming, actors and crew ran through a final dress rehearsal for the gunfight sequences “without testing the firearms”, the inquest was told.
Mr Ofner was wearing protective padding and a “jerk” vest so he could be hauled backward after the shots were fired.
During the scene, the weapon was loaded with homemade “blank” shotgun cartridges manufactured by an employee of a Brisbane gun shop.
The sequence appeared to be a success – until people realised that Mr Ofner had been shot and injured.
Despite frantic efforts to revive the stuntman, he was later pronounced dead.
A post-mortem found a projectile from the blank cartridge penetrated his chest, lacerating his heart.
Investigating officer Detective Sergeant John Fleming said armourer Warren Ritchie had been hired by production company Dreamers Creative Agency to supply the weapons.
Mr Ritchie, now deceased, was responsible for loading and unloading the firearms.
“The shortened shotgun was a live-fire, Category H weapon and should not have been brought on set,” Sergeant Fleming said.
“There were a number of offences identified during the investigation … including the unlawful manufacture of the ammunition.
“Possibly there needs to be a more stringent overview of the industry – there did not appear to be any checks done to see that they were complying with legislation.”
Sergeant Fleming said Mr Ritchie purchased the blank rounds for the shotgun more than 12 months earlier.
The rounds were manufactured by an employee of firearm outlet On Target Sporting Arms in Brisbane, which did not stock black 12-gauge ammunition.
“They were packed by the employee and supplied to Mr Ritchie 12 months beforehand,” Sergeant Fleming said.
“He was not licensed to manufacture ammunition.”
Manufacturer Adam Corless told the inquest he had made the blanks for Mr Ritchie for a different production. He did not know they were being used for the Bliss N Eso stunt.
“I wouldn’t have made them,” Mr Corless said,
“It needs to be treated as though it is normal ammunition.”
Stunt co-ordinator Judd Wild, who was awarded for his work on Mad Max: Fury Road, backed calls for a safety overhaul but said he believed the set was safe.
“If I thought there was any risk of him being struck by a projectile we wouldn’t have done the scene full stop,” Mr Wild said.
“If I knew anything would have been coming towards [Mr Ofner] I would have said no.”
Coroner Donald MacKenzie will consider written submissions before handing down his findings.