A. J. Bakunas
Albert John Bakunas, Jr, a.k.a. A.J. Bakunas (October 23, 1950 – September 22, 1978) was a stunt performer who died doubling for George Kennedy in a fall from the Kincaid Towers in Lexington, Kentucky for the film Steel (1979).
Born in Fort Lee, New Jersey, Bakunas quit his job as a gym teacher at Tenafly (N.J.) High School in 1974 and set out to break into the film industry. He did his first stuntwork for the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon. Bakunas became known for expertly performing falls from great heights.
Bakunas had set a world record for a 70,1 m (230 ft) fall from a helicopter for the film Hooper (1978), which was broken by Dar Robinson's 87,2 m (286 ft) fall for a non-movie related publicity stunt.
Bakunas, determined to retake the record, returned to Lexington to perform a 96 m (315 ft) jump from the 22nd floor of a construction site, where he had previously successfully fallen nine stories. On September 21, 1978, as his father and a crowd of about 1,000 watched, Bakunas performed the fall, reaching an estimated speed of 115 miles per hour (185 km/h). However, the airbag split on impact, and Bakunas died of his injuries the next day.
- Lexington Leader, September 21, 1978