Rico Priem, ‘9-1-1’ Crew Member, Died of a Heart Attack, Autopsy Finds

A “9-1-1” crew member who died last month while driving home after a 14-hour work day was killed by a heart attack, and not by drowsy driving, according to an autopsy report.

Rico Priem, 66, was driving home around 4:30 a.m. when his SUV drifted off the 57 freeway, hit a tree, went up an embankment, and flipped over.

His death came amid negotiations between the studios and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and touched on a sensitive issue in those talks. The union has raised concerns that long hours can put workers at risk of falling asleep when they drive home, and has pushed for shorter days and longer rest breaks.

The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office released the autopsy report to Variety on Tuesday. The report found that Priem died of a “sudden cardiac dysfunction,” and that there were no fatal traumatic injuries.

The toxicology report was negative for alcohol or other drugs.

Priem was working on “9-1-1,” the ABC series, which wrapped at 4:06 a.m. on Saturday, May 11. He was headed home about 20 minutes later when he crashed near Via Verde Drive in San Dimas.

Priem was a grip and a member of Local 80, whose TV credits included “Major Crimes,” “Deadwood,” and “Six Feet Under.” He was on the verge of retirement when he died, according to a GoFundMe that raised more than $60,000.

IATSE expressed its sadness in the wake of his death, and underscored its commitment to safety.

20th Television, which produces the show, also extended its condolences, as did the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios.

The union contract provides that if a worker is too tired to drive home, he or she can ask for a ride or a hotel stay, and the employer will endeavor to provide it and not retaliate against the worker for making the request.

In its talks with the studios, the union has raised concern about “Fraturdays” — a shift that starts on Friday afternoon and runs into Saturday morning.

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