The unintentional gunshot death of a stuntman on a Bliss N Eso music video in 2017 was likely caused in part by failure to test-fire weapons on set, the Brisbane Coroners Court was told yesterday (April 21).
Johann ‘Yogi’ Ofner was one of four stuntmen involved in a sequence for the rap group’s song ‘Friend Like You’ when he was fatally shot in the chest by a double-barrel shotgun loaded with blank 12-gauge cartridges. The video was filmed on January 23, 2017 at Brisbane bar Brooklyn Standards.
A coronial inquest into Ofner’s death began yesterday with a preliminary hearing in a Brisbane Coroner’s Court, where the Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) and Queensland Police presented the conclusions to their own investigations.
The video shoot had gone through the requisite approval procedures with permits, per The Music Network, and the police were told ahead of time a weapon would be fired.
The Courier Mail reports that the OIR and Queensland Police ultimately deemed the death unintentional.
Armourer Warren Ritchie, hired by the video’s production team, supplied the weapon which fatally wounded Ofner. He was responsible for loading and unloading the firearms alongside stunt coordinator Judd Wild. Ritchie was a licensed and qualified as an armourer to supply the weapons, with stunt coordinator Wild and a safety coordinator on hand during the shoot.
On the day of the filming, a final dress rehearsal and sequences for the gunfire scene reportedly went ahead without any firearms being discharged.
The court heard that during the filming of the scene, fellow stuntman Shinji Ikefuji discharged both triggers on the shotgun a metre away from Ofner. A post-mortem determined debris from the blank fatally struck Ofner’s heart.
Per The Courier Mail, the OIR and Queensland Police identified 14 contributing factors to Ofner’s passing, noting that if a test-fire of the shotgun had been conducted “it was highly likely that this incident would not have occurred”. They also noted a failure to implement a risk assessment which would have flagged possible harm from firing a blank at someone.
The OIR and Queensland police found Ritchie breached a duty of care, but Ritchie has since died and was not prosecuted.
The Coroner’s Court inquest list states the aims of the inquiry also include considering “the use of firearms in the entertainment, film and production industry” and the “adequacy of regulation and applicable standards by which the entertainment, film and production industry operates in Queensland (and Australia), and whether changes need to be made to ensure a similar incident does not happen in the future”.
Ofner, aged 28 at the time of his death, performed in film and TV as a fitness guru on programs such as Under The Deep, Gun Bust and Blade.
Following the incident in 2017, the three members of Bliss N Eso issued a statement on Ofner’s death on social media.
“We were not on set at the time and our management team are currently working with the police and the production company filming the video to get more details,” they said.
“The three of us are extremely upset and shaken up by this and our hearts and prayers go out to the victim’s family and friends as well as the cast and crew who were involved in the clip.”
The trio organised a tribute concert in Ofner’s memory in March that year, with all proceeds to go towards his then six-year-old daughter.
The inquest has now been adjourned until the end of June.