Family of cameraman killed in stunt: We hope no others face such heartbreak

Relatives of a cameraman killed when a stunt went wrong on a joint BBC and Netflix drama said they hope no other family has to endure their “heartbreak”, after a coroner ruled the risk of fatal injury was not effectively recognised or managed.

Mark Milsome died after a Land Rover ploughed into him during the shoot in Achimota Forest outside Accra in Ghana in November 2017.

The 54-year-old, who had been involved in big-screen hits such as the James Bond film Quantum Of Solace, was working at the time for production company Forgiving Earth Limited.

He was filming for the series Black Earth Rising which starred Michaela Coel and John Goodman.

Mark Milsome
Mark Milsome

The night-time stunt sequence was supposed to feature the vehicle going up a ramp and toppling over but an inquest heard that it unexpectedly headed for Mr Milsome, killing him and injuring his colleague Paul Kemp.

Giving his ruling of accidental death on Friday at West London Coroner’s Court, senior coroner Chinyere Inyama said risks had not been managed.

He said: “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.”

He said a pre-Prevention of Future Deaths report letter seeking further evidence on protocols around ensuring safety in co-ordinating stunts would be sent to a number of organisations including the BBC.

Mr Milsome’s sister, Sarah Harrison, attended throughout the four-day inquest alongside her parents Doug and Debbie Milsome, and the cameraman’s widow Andra.

After the inquest concluded, Ms Harrison thanked the coroner “for the steps he has taken, which seek to address those failures across the television and film industry”.

Andra Milsome
Andra Milsome

Following his death, the 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.

Ms Harrison added: “Through our work with the Mark Milsome Foundation over the past three years, we have sought to raise awareness of the circumstances leading to Mark’s death, and initiate lasting change in the health and safety practices of the industry. In the creation of the films and programmes we all enjoy, we want to ensure that the safety of the cast and crew remains paramount.

“We hope that no family again has to endure the heartbreak we have faced.”

Addressing the coroner before he gave his ruling, Mr Milsome’s widow, Andra, said tearfully: “No-one should ever die for the sake of a shot.”

Speaking after the inquest she also welcomed the ruling, but said she was disappointed that she felt heads of department on the production “really haven’t taken any responsibility for safety or for any of their personnel”.

She added: “I just really hope that Mark hasn’t died in vain and that the industry really bucks up and listens both here in the UK and further afield so that these breaches of safety just never ever happen again and nobody has to go through what our family has been through.”

Doug Milsome, a cinematographer who has worked with director Stanley Kubrick and on Bond films, said at the inquest’s opening earlier this week that standards of professional stunt crew and producers “should never have allowed” his son to die.

His son suffered multiple injuries, including a high cervical spine injury, and was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

Originally from Barnes in west London, the cameraman had more recently lived in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, with his wife and their daughter.

The four-day sitting heard from the original stunt co-ordinator – who had no role in the final stunt – that there was a “golden rule” that cameras in front of a moving vehicle should be unmanned.

It also heard that a different stunt co-ordinator was brought in just three weeks before the incident, that the speedometer in the Land Rover was not working and that there was no overall safety briefing before the stunt took place on November 18.

The vehicle was estimated to be travelling at 47 kilometres per hour when it left the ramp, expert evidence based on experiments using video footage of the incident suggested.

A spokesman for Forgiving Earth Limited said: “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.”