Italian actor Raphael Schumacher was declared brain dead Friday after accidentally strangling himself on a theater stage during a hanging scene.
Schumacher, 27, was performing in a production at the Pisa’s Teatro Lux on Jan. 30 when a medical student in the audience noticed that the rope around his neck looked to be too tight and Schumacher appeared to be in distress, according to Variety.
Pisa University Hospital doctors declared him brain dead five days after the incident.
“The noose should have been fake and a harness should have caught him if he fell. I cannot explain how an incident like this happened,” an actor involved with the play told the Independent on Thursday.
The daily il Giornale quoted the directors as saying the scene was supposed to end with a fake pistol shot, but Schumacher apparently changed the scene without notifying them.
The news agency ANSA reported Friday that prosecutors are investigating whether a lapse in safety procedure was to blame, with the focus on a possible stage accident rather than suicide.
Police have closed down the theater following the fatal incident, and are interviewing the cast and audience members to see if there was anything suspicious about the hanging.
In an interview with the Independent, Schumacher’s family rejected the idea that he would take his own life, even though the actor had fallen on hard times.
“My son recently lost his father and had ended a relationship but had found his serenity again. He didn’t leave a suicide note and had no reason to kill himself,” Schumacher’s mother told the newspaper.
The theater said in a statement on Facebook that it’s suspending all theater activities indefinitely.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.