Actor's family get pounds 650,000 over fatal stunt

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The Independent Online
THE WIDOW and children of Roy Kinnear, the actor who died filming a stunt in Spain, were awarded pounds 650,000 damages and their legal costs in the High Court yesterday.

The settlement came on the second day of the case against the producer Pierre Spengler and the director Richard Lester, of the Falconfilms production company. They denied exposing the 54-year- old actor to unnecessary risk during the making of The Return of the Musketeers in 1988.

Mr Justice Hidden heard that Mr Kinnear, playing the servant Planchet, was thrown from his horse after Mr Lester's order to 'thunder' at speed across the Alcantara bridge near Toledo.

A stunt co-ordinator and fellow actors Oliver Reed and Michael York regarded the scene as hazardous, but Mr Kinnear, a 'nervous, incompetent' horseman, was not offered a stunt double.

The 16-stone actor suffered severe pelvic injuries followed by massive internal bleeding. He died in hospital 24 hours later.

But the defendants claimed that the immediate cause of death was medical negligence by the Madrid hospital where he was treated, and that it should pay at least part of the damages. These third party proceedings involving the Hospital Ruber Internacional and an orthopaedic surgeon, Juan Ayala Andrades, were adjourned until tomorrow.

Carmel Kinnear gave evidence about her husband's death. 'That night is indelibly printed on my mind for ever,' she said.

Outside the court, she said: 'I feel justice has been done. Somebody can't just die and we all forget about it. Nothing will ever make up for the last six years of hell or the rest of our lives without him.'

Mrs Kinnear, 54, sued on behalf of herself and her three children - Rory, 16, Kirsty, 20, and Karina, 23 - over loss of dependency on the actor, who earned about pounds 167,400 at the time of his death. Martin Brown, a spokesman for Equity, the actors' union, which backed Mrs Kinnear in her legal battle, said it was delighted with the settlement. 'There is no legislation when it comes to stunts,' he said. 'It is clearly up to the individual actor what they are prepared to do. In general we advise our members that if something is going to put them in danger they should not do it and a stunt co-ordinator must be present at all times.'

Mr Brown said that although Mr Kinnear's death was tragic, accidents were extremely rare on set. Stunt co-ordinators - there are only 180 in Britain - go through at least five years' training before they are allowed to organise stunts.

But Chris Webb, who worked as a stunt co-ordinator with Mr Kinnear on The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood and is also chairman of Equity's stunt committee, said: 'Actors are very, very reluctant to make a fuss about doubles if they are put under pressure by the director. A lot of them are very game and will do anything even when they are frightened and feel coerced into it by the director.

'It is hard when you are filming and they have got to find a double while running to schedule.'

Other deaths on set include Brandon Lee, son of the martial arts expert Bruce Lee, who was killed by a bullet while filming The Crow last year. The largest number of deaths occurred in 1931, during the shooting of The Viking, in which 27 people died when the Viking ship blew up off Newfoundland.

(Photograph omitted)

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