News April 22, 2021

Coronial inquest begins into Bliss n Eso video stuntman’s death

Coronial inquest begins into Bliss n Eso video stuntman’s death
From Facebook

A coronial inquiry has begun in Brisbane into the accidental gunshot death of stuntman Johann ‘Yogi’ Ofner during the making of a video four years ago.

Ofner was one of four stuntmen in a sequence, in which a poker game in an underground Brisbane bar ends up with shots fired after a robbery.

A preliminary inquest hearing yesterday (April 21) heard the conclusions of investigations by The Office of Industrial Relations (OIR) and Queensland Police.

The OIR claimed it found 14 core or contributing factors to the death including failing to implement a risk assessment that should have found potential harm from firing blank cartridges at someone.

The police concluded that death was accidental but if a test fire of the shotgun had taken place during the rehearsal, “it was highly likely that this incident would not have occurred”.

The shoot had gone through the proper approval procedures.

It had permits, a licensed and qualified armourer supplied the weapons, police had been informed ahead of time that a weapon was to be fired, and a safety officer and stunt coordinator were on hand.

Coroner Donald MacKenzie will examine the big picture, looking back at what happened on the fateful day, and at “the use of firearms in the entertainment, film and production industry”.

The inquest will investigate if enough training and safety briefings were provided to cast and crew, if safety regulations are adequate and “whether changes need to made to ensure a similar incident does not happen in the future”.

The video shoot, for the Melbourne hip-hop act’s ‘Friend Like You’, was at the Brooklyn Standard in Eagle Lane on January 23, 2017.

Ofner was a 28-year old fitness enthusiast who performed on film and TV projects including Ten Percent, Under The Deep, Gun Bust and Blade and was to appear as a competitor on the TV series Australian Ninja Warrior.

The other stunt actors were Shinji Ikefuji, Yutaka Izumihara and Yoshiano Aonuma.

The weapons were supplied by well-known armourer Warren Ritchie, owner of Fireworks Down Under, engaged by production company Dreamers Creative Agency for the video.

Ritchie, who has since died, supplied a 12-gauge side-by-side break action shortened shotgun, an M11 model replica submachine gun, and two nine-millimetre blank-fire self-loading pistols.

The court was told Ritchie was responsible for loading and unloading the firearms as was stunt co-ordinator Judd Wild under Ritchie’s supervision.

Wild won the World Stunt Award for best specialty stunt in Mad Max: Fury Road.

The actors ran through a final dress rehearsal for the sequence. During the climatic scene, Ikefuji pulled both triggers on the shotgun towards Ofner from a metre away.

When the stuntmen rose to their feet after, Ofner was lying on his back with two small wounds in his chest, but with little blood.

One theory offered four years ago is that blanks and not live ammunition were indeed used, but a piece, or pieces, of debris from a chamber fatally pierced Ofner’s chest and lacerating his heart.

CPR was performed, but the father was dead by the time paramedics arrived.

According to a report in the Courier Mail  on yesterday’s preliminary inquest, Yutaka Izumihara and Yoshiano Aonuma could not be located to give evidence about the safety briefing given on set. Shinji Ikefuji, who fired the shot, is in Japan caring for a terminally ill relative.

The inquest was adjourned to June 30 when it is expected to run over three days.

Related articles