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1980s / Jon-Erik Hexum Odd Death 1984
Jon-Eik Hexum was a 26-year-old actor with a promising future when he was fatally injured on the set of Cover Up, a TV adventure series he was starring in. On October 12, 1984, the cast and crew were filming the seventh episode of the series, titled 'Golden Opportunity,' on Stage 17 of the 20th Century Fox lot. One scene called for Hexum's character to load blanks into a .44 Magnum handgun. When the scene did not go as the director had planned, there was a delay. Hexum became restless and impatient and began playing to lighten the mood. Apparently, he had unloaded all but one blank round. In what would appear to be a game of Russian roulette, at 5:15 p.m., he put the revolver to his right temple and pulled the trigger. Hexum was apparently unaware that blanks use paper or plastic wadding to seal gun powder into the shell. This wadding can be propelled from the barrel of the gun with enough force to cause severe injury or death if the weapon is fired within a few inches of the body, especially if pointed at a particularly vulnerable spot. Although the paper wadding in the blank that Hexum discharged did not penetrate his skull, the wad struck him in the temple with enough blunt force trauma to shatter a quarter-sized piece of his skull and propel the pieces into his brain, causing massive hemorrhaging. Hexum was rushed to Beverly Hills Medical Center, where he underwent five hours of surgery. On October 18, six days after the accident, Hexum was declared brain dead. With his mother's permission, his body was flown to San Francisco on life support, where his heart was transplanted into the body of a dying 36-year-old Las Vegas man at Pacific Medical Center. Hexum's kidneys and corneas were also harvested: One cornea went to a 66-year-old man with cataracts, the other to a young girl. One of the kidney recipients was a critically ill five-year-old boy, and the other was a 43-year-old grandmother of three who had waited eight years for a kidney. Skin that was donated was used to treat a 3½-year-old boy with third degree burns. Hexum's death was ruled accidental. His mother later received an out-of-court settlement from 20th Century Fox Television and Glen A. Larson Productions, the production team behind Cover Up.