Filmmakers Face Charges in Death Of Crew Member, Sarah Jones, On Set Of ‘Midnight Rider’

A prosecutor in Georgia said on Thursday that three filmmakers, Randall Miller, Jay Sedrich and Jody Savin, had been charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in the death of Sarah Jones, a crew worker who was killed by a freight train on the set of the film Midnight Rider in February according to The New York Times. The filmmakers are charged with involuntary manslaughter because prosecutors feel the filmmakers did not exercise due caution in setting up the filming.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Sarah Jones’ family has also filed a wrongful death suit in the case claiming:

” [The filmmakers] operated without minimum safety precautions and contrary to standard industry practices for productions of this scale and for productions involving dangerous filming conditions.”

The devastating death occurred in February when the filmmakers had scheduled crew members to set up filming on train tracks of the CSX line in Wayne County, Georgia. Crew members had waited patiently for two trains to pass before moving equipment and a large metal rolling bed to the tracks. The items were rolled out onto a long bridge that only had one exit point that allowed for only one person to enter or exit at a time. The filmmakers were attempting to get a shot of a “dream sequence” when the deadly tragedy went down.

As the crews moved the items onto the tracks, a third unexpected train approached. The crew all scrambled to the one exit to get off the bridge, but there wasn’t enough time for everyone. As the train hit the large metal bed, it sent shrapnel flying through the air. The incident killed Sarah Jones and injured several others.

The charges in the incident stem from poor planning and disregard for safety by the filmmakers. Randall Miller and Jody Savin are a husband and wife filmmaking duo who work on independent films through their company Unclaimed Freight Productions Inc. The other individual charged, Jay Sedrich, was also listed as a co-producer and helped set up the shoot. The three are charged due to not getting approval to use the train tracks by train authorities. The train company said no contact was made with them about the shoot that day and they did not know the crew would be on the tracks when the accident occurred. In fact, the indictment goes so far as to say:

“[The filmmakers entered] after receiving, prior to that entry, notice from the owner thereof that such entry was denied.”

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Variety reports that what had been unclear until the indictment was handed down was whether prosecutors believed CSX’s contention that they had told Wayne County sheriff’s investigators that it had refused permission for the production to use its tracks and claimed it had “electronic correspondence” to prove it. With the trespass charge appearing in the indictment, we are left to assume that the film producer’s suggestions that they received emails from the railroad that either stated or implied consent was not presented to prosecutors. None of those messages have been made public, but the criminal trespass charge suggests no such messages were produced by the production.

Film safety has been brought into question numerous times even in large Hollywood productions. A-lister Johnny Depp was even injured on the set of Lone Ranger requiring him to do less stunts for the move.

Do you think the filmmakers are guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the Sarah Jones’ case? What do you think should be done to ensure the safety of those working on movie sets?

[Image Credit: Videomaker.com]