Producers on BBC drama failed to manage stunt that led to cameraman death, coroner rules

Victoria Ward
·3-min read
Mark Milsome with wife Andra and daughter Alice - Irwin Mitchell / SWNS.COM
Mark Milsome with wife Andra and daughter Alice - Irwin Mitchell / SWNS.COM

Producers working for a BBC drama failed to properly manage a stunt that led to the death of a cameraman, a coroner has ruled.

Mark Milsome, 54, a father-of-one, died after being hit by a Land Rover in Ghana in November 2017 while working on the joint BBC and Netflix series Black Earth Rising.

Chinyere Inyama, senior coroner at West London Coroner's Court, said after the inquest that he would be writing to several organisations, including the BBC, about safety protocols.

He ruled: “Mark Milsome died an accidental death. Shortly before the execution of the stunt, the risk of Mr Milsome being harmed or fatally injured was not effectively recognised, assessed, communicated or managed.”

Mr Inyama said he required further evidence on protocols around ensuring safety in coordinating stunts.

He will also be writing a prevention of future deaths report, indicating that he has sufficient concern of industry practices that could create further risk.

The report will be sent to the British Film Commission, the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union, the Cine Guilds of Great Britain and the British Stunt Register.

Cameraman Mark Milsome -  Wales news service
Cameraman Mark Milsome - Wales news service

Following his death, Mr Milsome’s family launched the Mark Milsome Foundation (MMF) to nurture young film-making talent. Stars including Robert De Niro, Dame Judi Dench and Johnny Depp have backed the cause by wearing the organisation's T-shirts.

Mr Milsome’s sister, Sarah Harrison, thanked the coroner "for the steps he has taken, which seek to address those failures across the television and film industry".

She added: "We hope that no family again has to endure the heartbreak we have faced.”

The inquest heard that the night-time stunt sequence was supposed to feature a vehicle going up a ramp and toppling over but instead, it took off and ploughed into Mr Milsome, killing him and injuring his colleague Paul Kemp.

The original stunt coordinator - who had no role in the final stunt - said there was a “golden rule” that cameras in front of a moving vehicle should be unmanned.

John Smith,  the stunt coordinator who was brought in just three weeks before the incident, said the Land Rover’s speedometer was not working and there was no overall safety briefing before the stunt took place.

Mr Milsome, from Hay-on-Wye, who had been involved in big-screen hits such as James Bond film Quantum Of Solace, was working for production company Forgiving Earth Limited.

His widow, Andra, told the coroner: “No-one should ever die for the sake of a shot. Mark's death certainly should never have happened.”

His father, Doug, a cinematographer who has worked with director Stanley Kubrick, said the stunt was not “complex” and that the standards of professional stunt crew and producers "should never have allowed" his son to die.

Mark Milsome's father Doug, sister Sarah Harrison and mother Debbie  - Victoria Jones/PA
Mark Milsome's father Doug, sister Sarah Harrison and mother Debbie - Victoria Jones/PA

A spokesman for Forgiving Earth Limited said: "We cannot begin to imagine the pain that Mark's family have endured over the last three years and we are desperately sorry for their loss.

"We hope that the inquest process has helped answer the questions they had concerning the accident. Since that evening our resolve has always been to fully understand all aspects of what happened and to identify any steps that can be taken by the stunt community and us in the wider production industry.

"In light of the coroner's comments we should all now do whatever we can to ensure all possible lessons are learned so that such a tragedy never happens again."