Jon-Erik Hexum (November 5, 1957 – October 18, 1984) was an American model and actor. He died as a result of an accidental self-inflicted blank cartridge gunshot to the head on the set of the CBS television series Cover Up, in which he played the male lead.
On October 12, 1984, the cast and crew of Cover Up were filming the seventh episode of the series, "Golden Opportunity", on Stage 17 of the 20th Century Fox lot. One of the scenes filmed that day called for Hexum's character to load bullets into a .44 Magnum handgun, so he was provided with a functional real gun and blanks. When the scene did not play as the director wanted it to play in the master shot, there was a delay in filming. Hexum became restless and impatient during the delay and began playing around to lighten the mood. Apparently, he had unloaded all but one (blank) round, spun it, and, apparently simulating Russian roulette with what he thought was a harmless weapon, at 5:15 p.m., he put the revolver to his right temple and pulled the trigger.
Hexum was apparently unaware that his actions were dangerous. Blanks use paper or plastic wadding to seal gunpowder into the cartridge, and this wadding is propelled from the barrel of the gun with enough force to cause injury if the weapon is fired within a few feet of the body should it strike at a particularly vulnerable spot, such as the temple or the eye. At a close enough range, the effect of the powder gasses is similar to a small explosion, so although the paper wadding in the blank that Hexum discharged did not penetrate his skull, there was 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 to repair his wounds. 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 a 36-year-old Las Vegas man at California Pacific Medical Center. Hexum's kidneys and corneas were also donated: 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 body was then flown back to Los Angeles. He was cremated at Grandview Crematory in Glendale, California, and a private funeral was held. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean, near Malibu, California, by his mother.