The production team of the latest instalment in the Maze Runner film series failed to ensure the safety of the movie's star, Dylan O'Brien, during an action sequence that went wrong on the B.C. set of the film, causing the young actor serious injuries, B.C.'s workplace safety agency has concluded.
A WorkSafeBC report on the March accident, newly obtained by The Globe and Mail, says Mr. O'Brien – described in the document as the "worker" – received "minimal instruction" in navigating the scene, shot in the Kamloops region, that required him to move from one moving vehicle to another.
The report said a safety lanyard was too short, resulting in Mr. O'Brien being pulled off the front vehicle and then being suspended above the ground between the two.
Mr. O'Brien's injuries were so severe that production on the science-fiction film, originally scheduled for release in February, 2017, had to be shut down to allow for his recovery, effectively halting the progression of a film series that has earned more than $600-million at the global box office.
In May, producing studio Twentieth Century Fox announced that the release of the film – the third in a series – had been postponed again until January of 2018 so the 24-year-old Mr. O'Brien could recover. On Sunday, the executive vice-president and chief communications officer of Twentieth Century Fox responded to the WorkSafeBC findings in an e-mail to The Globe.
"While we don't agree with all of the findings of the Inspection Report, we deeply regret that this terrible accident occurred and the serious injuries it caused to Dylan O'Brien," Chris Petrikin wrote.
"We have been working with WorkSafeBC to try and correct some inaccuracies in the Inspection Report and appreciate WorkSafe's willingness to discuss our concerns." Mr. Petrikin did not elaborate, but added: "Our primary concern now is Dylan's full recovery from this accident."
Mr. Petrikin declined to answer questions about whether the production would resume in British Columbia or shift to another location, or about Mr. O'Brien's current condition.
In the film, Mr. O'Brien plays Thomas, the leader of a group of people trying to survive after the Earth has been devastated by a solar flare.
The Death Cure was being filmed at the Cache Creek airport in Ashcroft, about 85 kilometres west of Kamloops. The report says changes were made to a "planned and rehearsed" action scene on March 17 in an effort to shoot the scene in one sequence instead of two.
"When the change was made to the sequence, there was no meeting held to review the changes with all involved. The worker performing the action sequence received minimal instruction on this new action sequence," the report said.
"The change to the action sequence increased the risk of injury as the transition was now between two vehicles that were not connected."
Without connection, the report says, driver co-ordination was now key to Mr. O'Brien shifting between moving vehicles.
The incident occurred when the rigger let out rope to try to prevent the actor from being pulled off the leading vehicle, but ran out of rope length, it added. "This resulted in the worker being pulled off the leading vehicle, striking the ground due to the length of rope and then being partially suspended in front of the trailing vehicle. This resulted in a serious injury to the worker."
The report does not detail the injuries to Mr. O'Brien, but he reportedly suffered multiple injuries, leading to him being taken to hospital.
The report says that the "employer" in the production of the film has until June 15 to submit a report on doing better in managing such situations.
Compliance measures, says the report, must "ensure that action scenes are planned to minimize the risk to all workers. Changes to action sequences require review, understanding and agreement by all involved. Additional training or a qualified stunt person may be required for higher-risk action sequences."
WorkSafeBC previously confirmed that a pair of its prevention officers had been dispatched to the production's set to look into the matter, and that the production team were co-operating with investigators.
An employer incident-investigation report done by Fox US Productions 49 Inc., listed as the employer, was also obtained by The Globe and Mail. According to that report, the scene had been thoroughly rehearsed and "successfully completed approximately five times prior to the accident."
The report also said the length of the safety lanyard was discussed and demonstrated prior to filming. "Safety bulletins were issued to cast and crew."
The report said that "on preliminary investigation, it appears that the trailing vehicle slowed prematurely."
The incident with Mr. O'Brien is a rare high-profile injury in a B.C. film and TV production sector that has welcomed such productions as the feature film Deadpool and Star Trek Beyond and TV series such as Arrow and Amazon's The Man in the High Castle.
But prominent actors have been injured on sets elsewhere, including Harrison Ford whose leg was broken in 2014 during production, in London, on Star Wars: The Force Awakens when a metal door on the set of the Millennium Falcon fell on him. The production company faced prosecution by British workplace-safety authorities.
One of the highest-profile productions ongoing in British Columbia is a revival of the TV series Prison Break. While filming a section of the series in Morocco, star Dominic Purcell suffered a broken nose and head injury when a set piece came loose and an iron bar fell on his head, according to a weekend interview on entertainment website Deadline Hollywood.'
Editor's note: An earlier digital version of this story incorrectly stated that The Man in the High Castle is available through Netflix; however, it is available on Amazon. This version has been updated.