The actor, who has a starring role in Rust alongside Alec Baldwin, Frances Fisher and Travis Fimmel, broke his silence about the on-set incident with a prop gun which resulted in the shooting death of the film’s 42-year-old director of photography.
"I’m not even sure where to start," the Supernatural alum, 43, began his post. "This has been a tragedy of epic proportions that we are all still processing."
Ackles said while filming the independent movie in New Mexico early last week, "I felt compelled to tell Halyna just how awesome I thought she was. I told her how incredible I thought her camera shots were and just how exciting it was to watch her and her team work. Truly. She laughed and said thank you and gave me a hug. I’ll forever be thankful we had that moment. She had a spunk and passion that infected the entire crew from the top down."
He added, "She was an inspiration."
Ackles said his "heart and prayers go out to" the cinematographer's husband, Matthew Hutchins, their 9-year-old son and the rest of their family.
"There just aren’t enough words to express what an immense loss this is," he continued. "She will be incredibly missed by all of us who knew and admired her."
On Thursday, both Hutchins and the film’s director, Joel Souza, were hit after Baldwin fired the prop weapon, which was not supposed to be loaded, while practicing a scene.
According to a search warrant executed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's office, Baldwin and the crew were setting up a shot that required him to cross-draw a revolver and point the weapon at the camera. Due to a shadow, the camera had to be re-adjusted. While this was happening, and cameras were not rolling, Baldwin demonstrated to Hutchins and Souza how he was going to draw the revolver from its holster and how his arm would be positioned for the new shot when the firearm went off.
Souza told authorities he heard "a loud pop" and noticed Hutchins, who he was standing behind, grab her midsection and stumble backward. She was helped to the ground with camera operator Reid Russell recalling Hutchins saying she could not feel her legs.
Hutchins was treated by on-site medics and then airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead.
Souza, who was also injured in the incident, was taken by ambulance to a Santa Fe. He was treated for a wound to his right shoulder and released.
According to an affidavit signed from the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office, assistant director Dave Halls handed one of three prop guns that the film’s armorer, Hanna Gutierrez Reed, had set up outside the set on a gray cart and yelled "cold gun," meaning it wasn't supposed to have any live rounds in it, before giving it to Baldwin.
Baldwin, also a producer on the film, issued a statement on Friday, saying there were "no words to convey my shock and sadness." He said his "heart is broken" for her husband and son, whom he was photographed spending time with over the weekend.
Hutchins's husband took to Twitter to thank people for their well wishes and asked that donations go to the AFI Scholarship Fund.
Halyna inspired us all with her passion and vision, and her legacy is too meaningful to encapsulate in words. Our loss is enormous, and we ask that the media please respect my family’s privacy as we process our grief. We thank everyone for sharing images and stories of her life. pic.twitter.com/LgEp4XVkja
— Matt Hutchins (@mhutchins) October 23, 2021
Thank you to Halyna's friends and mentors at AFI for establishing a scholarship to honor her memory and support aspiring female cinematographers. Anyone seeking to honor her memory, please direct your giving to this fund. https://t.co/I5ci67uleU
— Matt Hutchins (@mhutchins) October 23, 2021
He also posted an Instagram tribute.
Sousa also issued a statement over the weekend, saying, "I am gutted by the loss of my friend and colleague, Halyna. She was kind, vibrant, incredibly talented, fought for every inch, and always pushed me to be better.”
He continued, “My thoughts are with her family at this most difficult time. I am humbled and grateful by the outpouring of affection we have received from our filmmaking community, the people of Santa Fe, and the hundreds of strangers who have reached out….. It will surely aid in my recovery.”
There has been a lot of finger pointing and claims of an unsafe set as this has unfolded. On Sunday, Rust chief electrician Serge Svetnoy publicly blamed the film’s armorer and producers for the “negligence” that led to Hutchins's death.
Hutchins was memorialized Sunday night during a candlelight vigil hosted by International Cinematographers Guild 600 at the Burbank headquarters of IATSE Local 80. The "extraordinary young woman” was celebrated, but the senselessness of the tragedy was noted.
There will be plenty of time for “who, what, why,” said Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of Local 600. “We all stand together at this moment in grief and disbelief and what we do with that will define us and define this moment.”