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‘Gun safety is essential’ Jon-Erik Hexum’s ‘Cover Up’ co-star Jennifer O’Neill remembers late actor

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The tragedy that occurred on the New Mexico set of Alec Baldwin’s film “Rust” is drawing comparisons to Jon-Erik Hexum, a star who died under similar circumstances.

Baldwin fired a prop gun on the movie set that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza, authorities said.

A spokesperson for the actor said there was an accident on the set involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks. Sheriff’s spokesman Juan Rios said detectives were investigating how and what type of projectile was discharged. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the 63-year-old was seen Thursday outside the sheriff’s office in tears.

Halyna Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
(Photo by Mat Hayward/Getty Images for AMC Networks)

It’s a grim reminder of another horrific accident that occurred decades ago, which ended Hexum’s life.

In 1984, the star fatally shot himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of his CBS series “Cover Up.” He was 26.

After pulling the trigger, the impact from the blast fractured Hexum’s skull, driving a bone fragment the size of a quarter into his brain and causing massive hemorrhaging, Entertainment Weekly reported. Hexum was rushed to Beverly Hills Medical Center but was pronounced brain dead after five hours of surgery.

Jennifer O'Neill and Jon-Erik Hexum starred in ‘Cover Up,’ a CBS detective action television series.

Jennifer O’Neill and Jon-Erik Hexum starred in ‘Cover Up,’ a CBS detective action television series.
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

His co-star, Jennifer O’Neill, told Fox News it’s a haunting reminder that gun safety is crucial on Hollywood sets.

“What a tragedy!” said the actress. “Gun safety is essential and needs to be professionally addressed to spare the tragic loss of innocent lives.”

“Jon-Erik Hexum was at the pinnacle of his life and career when he accidentally shot himself with a half-loaded prop gun while fooling around playing Russian roulette on the set,” she shared.

O’Neill added that the star made a “selfless donation” of his viable organs “to save the lives of so many others in need following his fatal accident.”

Jon-Erik Hexum, an actor and model, was a rising star in Hollywood.

Jon-Erik Hexum, an actor and model, was a rising star in Hollywood.
(Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

The 73-year-old, who has since found God, said she’s praying for Hexum’s family, as well as Hutchins’.

“At that time, I had not yet come to my faith in Jesus – nor did I know if Jon-Erik embraced belief in Christ… but my prayer continues to be that we will see those we so sadly miss again in heaven and that the families, friends and fans of those cut down in their prime are somehow comforted,” said O’Neill.

After Hexum’s death, “Cover Up” hung on for only one season with Antony Hamilton. And a few years later, the actor’s mother, Gretha Hexum, won an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with Twentieth Century Fox Television and Glenn Larson Productions.

In ‘Cover Up,’ Jon-Erik Hexum played a secret agent.

In ‘Cover Up,’ Jon-Erik Hexum played a secret agent.
( Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Nearly a decade later, the son of late legendary martial artist Bruce Lee suffered a similar fate.

Brandon Lee died in 1993 after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for “The Crow.” The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine. He was 28.

Following the accident on the set of “Rust,” Lee’s Twitter account, which is run by his sister Shannon, shared a heartfelt message on social media.

“Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on ‘Rust,’” it read. “No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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