Halyna Hutchins Was One of Few Crew Members to Stay Behind on 'Rust' Set Following Reported Walkout

Questions continue to emerge about the atmosphere and safety conditions on the Alec Baldwin film set leading up to the accidental shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins

Halyna Hutchins
Halyna Hutchins. Photo: James Gourley/Shutterstock

As local authorities in New Mexico continue to investigate the accidental on-set shooting that killed Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, more details are emerging about the crew's feelings on safety issues before the tragedy occurred.

According to a message shared from a member of the Rust camera team on IA Members Unite's Instagram Story –– which has been confirmed by multiple sources to PEOPLE –– there was a walkout the morning of the shooting, with members of the crew writing resignation letters the night before.

The update comes after a production source told PEOPLE that crew members working on the movie "didn't feel safe" on set of the Alec Baldwin film in New Mexico.

Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who was injured in the shooting incident, were two of the few crew members who remained on set, according to the message shared among the Rust members and confirmed by PEOPLE.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a half-dozen camera operators and their assistants walked off the set in protest of tiring working conditions, long hours, and long commutes.

Safety protocols — including gun inspections — were not strictly followed, sources told the outlet. The LA Times also reported that three crew members said they were concerned about previous accidental prop gun discharges.

A text message sent by a colleague to the unit production manager read, per the outlet, "We've now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe."

A production source previously told PEOPLE that crew members working on the movie were "concerned and angry" that the possible International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees strike — which was averted after the IATSE reached a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for a new film and TV contract — meant to address harsh working conditions never happened.

"They all made it clear they didn't feel safe and that they had to spend a long time to get to set, so everyone was tired even before they got there," the insider said. "They were concerned and angry that the proposed union strike that was meant to address these issues never happened."

On Thursday night, IATSE Local 44 Chapter, a union that represents crew workers in Hollywood, sent an email — obtained by Deadline — to members stating there was no union prop master on set the night Hutchins was killed by a prop gun fired by Baldwin.

According to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Associated Press, New York Times, and Santa Fe Reporter, Baldwin was unknowingly handed a gun loaded with live ammunition during rehearsals.

Authorities wrote in the affidavit that an assistant director picked up a prop gun from a rolling cart prepared by the armorer and handed it to Baldwin, the outlets report.

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As the assistant director retrieved the weapon, they yelled "Cold Gun!" (a phrase that is meant to indicate that the gun is not loaded and is safe to handle), the documents read, per the NYT and SF Reporter.

A spokesperson for the movie's production company, Rust Movie Productions, LLC, told PEOPLE on Friday, "The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company. Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time."

On Thursday, authorities responded to an incident at the Bonanza Creek Ranch set of Rust around 1:50 p.m. local time following 911 calls indicating "an individual had been shot on set," the Santa Fe Sheriff's Department wrote in a press release obtained by PEOPLE.

Upon further investigation, the sheriff's department learned that Hutchins, 42, and Souza, 48, were "shot when a prop firearm was discharged" by Baldwin, 63.

Hutchins was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she died from her injuries, according to the sheriff's department. Souza was hospitalized, but his reps told Deadline he has since been released.

So far, no charges have been filed. The investigation into the incident remains ongoing.

The Rust film set has been shut down following Hutchins' death, with production indefinitely paused, according to the production company, Rust Movie Productions, LLC.

"The entire cast and crew has been absolutely devastated by today's tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to Halyna's family and loved ones," the company said in a statement Thursday. "We have halted production on the film for an undetermined period of time and are fully cooperating with the Santa Fe Police Department's investigation. We will be providing counseling services to everyone connected to the film as we work to process this awful event."

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