VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — “Deadpool 2” star Ryan Reynolds is mourning the death of a motorcycle stunt driver killed during production Monday.
Reynolds released a statement on Twitter a few hours after the accident near the waterfront in downtown Vancouver.
“Today, we tragically lost a member of our crew while filming Deadpool,” the actor wrote. “We’re heartbroken, shocked and devastated … but recognize nothing can compare to the grief and inexplicable pain her family and loved ones must feel in this moment.”
Reynolds, a native of Vancouver playing the Marvel Comics superhero Deadpool in the 20th Century Fox movie, said his heart “pours out to them — along with each and every person she touched in this world.”
People.com identified the motorcycle operator as Joi “SJ” Harris, who said she was the first African-American road racer.
The Brooklyn, New York native was an advocate for women of color in the road racing game, and promoted herself as “the first licensed African-American women in U.S. history to actively compete in sanctioned motorcycle road racing events.”
On Friday, Harris updated her Facebook with a selfie, writing, “EVERYTHING FOR A REASON. #staythecourse.”
Harris is thought to be the stunt double for Zazie Beetz. A woman donning the costume for the mutant Domino, whom Beetz plays in the film, was spotted on a black Ducati motorcycle in the area for a sequence days earlier.
“I’m deeply saddened by the loss of one of our stunt performers today,” Deadpool 2 director David Leitch said in a statement to PEOPLE. “No words can express how I and the rest of the Deadpool 2 crew feel about this tragedy. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and loves ones in this difficult time.”
This was Harris’s first film as a stunt performer, according to Deadline, which reported that she was not wearing a helmet during the scene because her character does not wear a helmet.
The motorcycle crash happened near the Shaw Tower office building, where a crumpled motorcycle was seen lying on its side and a window was smashed.
Nathan Kramchynski, who works on the seventh floor of the building, said he watched rehearsals for the stunt outside the Vancouver Convention Centre. The stunt woman had been riding the motorcycle down a set of stairs from the center and stopped when she reached the street, he said.
But when the accident happened, the driver appeared to pick up speed, crossed the street and swerved to avoid pedestrians before disappearing from his view, Kramchynski said.
“She lost control really quickly. It happened in a split second,” he said. “She was going full throttle and then there’s a building there.”
Another witness, Sharmina Kermalli, said she had just walked into a Starbucks next door to where the accident happened when she heard a loud crash. She ran outside and saw glass still falling on the body of the motorcycle driver.
Police said WorkSafeBC, the British Columbia provincial workplace safety agency, and the coroner’s service were investigating. Trish Knight Chernecki of WorkSafe BC said some investigators are looking at any possible occupational health and safety issues while others examine the cause of the crash and prevention in the future.
The last stunt death in British Columbia was in 1996, when a person jumped from a helicopter and a parachute failed to open, she said.
In March 2016, actor Dylan O’Brien suffered injuries on the British Columbia set of the latest instalment of the “Maze Runner” film series. WorkSafe BC said Fox Productions Inc. didn’t rehearse a stunt sequence properly, but Fox said the stunt was thoroughly rehearsed.
A stuntman was fatally injured last month in Georgia during production of “The Walking Dead.” He fell head-first onto concrete about 22 feet (7 meters) below after appearing to try to grab a railing to stop his fall.
PHOTO: SJ Harris Facebook
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