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Producer Blamed in Death of Tank Diver

Thursday, March 28, 2013

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A California film studio is being held liable for the death of a water tank cleaner who drowned on a movie set last fall.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has fined Silver Bullet Productions Inc. $61,445 and issued 10 safety violations in the death of Mike Bridger, 48, who perished Sept. 21 as he was cleaning a water tank on the set of the forthcoming Lone Ranger movie.

Bridger was the first of two California tank workers to die in unrelated accidents within 10 days.


Mike Bridger, 48, drowned in September on the set of The Lone Ranger; his employer has been fined $61,445. The $250 million film is set for release July 7.

Initial reports speculated that Bridger had died of a heart attack. While no official cause of death was later released, Cal/OSHA has put the responsibility on Silver Bullet, of Van Nuys, CA.

Diving Alone, Unsupervised

According to Cal/OSHA, Bridger drowned about 9 a.m. on Sept. 21 while working alone in a 25-foot-deep tank of water at the Polsa Rosa Ranch in Acton, CA.

News reports described Bridger as a welder and water safety expert who had worked on other movie sets. When he died, however, he was working alone.

According to Cal/OSHA documents, Bridger had been assigned a “Dive Buddy” while he worked, but that person was away from the tank for about 10 minutes while Bridger was in the water, documents said. When the Dive Buddy returned, he noticed there were no bubbles from Bridger’s Scuba equipment.

The Dive Buddy then entered the tank and pulled Bridger out, but it was too late.

Cal/OSHA documents also note that there was no supervisor on site at the time and no direct witnesses to the accident.

The agency determined “that the accident was caused by the diver diving alone and not being given a medical examination to determin[e] the employee’s medical fitness to dive.”

10 Citations

Cal/OSHA cited Silver Bullet Productions for four serious and six other-than-serious violations.

The serious violations accuse the film company of failing to:

  • Have a trained diving supervisor on site to brief the crew, inspect before the dive, ensure the qualifications of the dive crew, or supervise the dive;
  • Train the dive crew in CPR, diver rescue or diver first aid;
  • Conduct a required medical exam of Bridger or obtain any medical information about him before allowing him to dive; and
  • Follow basic operating procedures for diving, including having a standby diver ready, having the “buddy” remain at his post, or having a second diver in the water communicating with Bridger throughout the operation.

A NOAA diving class trains. Cal/OSHA cited multiple violations of commercial diving standards in the movie-set death.

The other-than-serious citations say Silver Bullet failed to:

  • Document health and safety training for all employees;
  • Document the diving operation;
  • Document any of the tank or Scuba equipment used in the dive, including its condition, maintenance records, repair history or other required details;
  • Train employees in hazards specific to their work;
  • Develop a Manual for Diving Safety, including safety and emergency procedures, as required; and
  • Test the air supplied by Bridge’s respirator, which lacked high-temperature and carbon monoxide alarms.

Diving Standards

OSHA’s commercial diving standards are addressed in specific standards for the general industry, shipyard employment, marine terminals, longshoring, and the construction industry.

Silver Bullet Productions could not be reached Wednesday (March 27) for comment. The $250 million Lone Ranger movie, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Johnny Depp, is due in theaters July 7.


Tagged categories: Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA; Respirators; Tank interiors; Tanks and vessels; Worker training

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