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  May 26, 1999

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Stuntman: Hart not qualified for stunt

By DAN RALPH -- Canadian Press
 TORONTO -- A professional stuntman says wrestler Owen Hart was not qualified to perform the high-flying stunt that killed him and should not have attempted such a risky manoeuvre.
 Hart plunged nine storeys to his death during a World Wrestling Federation pay-per-view event Sunday in Kansas City, Mo.
 The younger brother of former WWF champion Bret Hart crashed head-first into the ring after coming loose from the cable that was to lower him from the rafters of the arena before a sold-out audience of 18,000 spectators.
 Investigators believe Hart's body harness was properly attached to the cable suspended from the ceiling. The harness had a quick-release device that Hart could engage to free himself upon landing in the ring.
 Police officials theorize that Hart either accidently hit the mechanism or that it went off when a piece of his costume became entangled in it.
 Steve Lucescu, who has performed stunts or co-ordinated them for more than than 180 movies, said Hart had no business trying a stunt that only the most seasoned professional would attempt.
 "He (Hart) got into the wrestling business to wrestle, not to dangle 100 feet off the ground," said Lucescu, whose film credits include working on Darkman II, appearing as a hitman in the Wesley Snipes flick Murder at 1600 and spending time behind the scenes of such television series as Kung Fu, Earth: Final Conflict and Sinbad.
 "I read Tuesday that Owen Hart had done this stunt several times but it's absolutely ridiculous to think that just because he did it several times that he was qualified to do it. You might be a stunt performer for 10 years before you even get the chance of doing a big fall like that.
 "This is a guy who was in the business of pro wrestling and wasn't a stunt or a circus performer. What they were doing was basically putting him on a wire rig, descending him from 100 feet in the air to a spot in the ring, then quick-releasing him so he could get into his fight and into his script that he had to follow. That to me is more of a stunt performer's job than a wrestler's."
 Lucescu, in Toronto working on a film that stars Dennis Quaid, admits he doesn't follow wrestling and has not seen any footage of Hart's tragic fall. But he agrees with the two theories put forth by investigators.
 "I could see him dangling 100 feet in the air by a wire and probably not being in the best frame of mind because it's not what he was brought up to do," Lucescu said. "He probably either had his hand on the harness and the quick-release mechanism or part of his wardrobe was caught on it."
 Luscecu was very critical of WWF officials, who continued with the pay-per-view event after Hart was rushed to hospital.
 "Quite honestly, the fact that this show went on after this guy died in the ring is just atrocious," he said. "For them to sit there and say that it was a tribute to Owen, that's bull.
 "It was a tribute to their wallet, that's what it was. I mean, he died in the ring before thousands of people in the arena and millions more on pay-per-view and yet they continued with the show."
 Lucescu said Hart's death bears a striking resemblance to that of Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts star Bruce Lee who was accidently shot and killed during the filming of the movie The Crow.
 "Brandon Lee was killed because the producers didn't want to have a qualified gun handler on set," Lucescu said. "They deemed it, 'Well, we don't need to have that guy, we can save a few bucks.'
 "Anybody could do (Hart's stunt) if they simply had no fear of heights and trusted everybody around them. The problem is: as a wrestler, did Owen Hart have the desire to do this or was he pressured into it because the powers that be wanted that to be his dramatic entrance?
 "He was a wrestler, not a stuntman and shouldn't have been doing it to start with."

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