‘Midnight Rider’ Suspends Production After Fatal Train Accident (EXCLUSIVE)

Sarah Jones Midnight Rider Death

Funeral for Sarah Jones to be held today

Updated 12:58 p.m. PST:

Midnight Rider,” the Gregg Allman biopic on which a crew member was killed last week, has suspended production.

Crew members are being released, though they’ve been told that they will be recalled at some future date.

After Variety posted this news, representatives for the production company released a statement reading, in its entirety: “In light of the tragic loss, we have decided to put the production of ‘Midnight Rider’ on hold.”

Sarah Jones, the second camera assistant, was killed Thursday on the production’s first day of shooting near Jessup, Ga. The company was shooting a dream sequence on a railroad trestle, with a hospital bed on the tracks, when a train came across the bridge. Star William Hurt, director Randall Miller and the production’s still photographer tried to get the bed off the tracks but did not have time. Hurt and some of the crew escaped the bridge unhurt, but some crew were struck by flying debris. Jones was hit by a piece of debris from the bed and knocked into the path of the train, and was killed.

Jones’ funeral is Wednesday in Columbia, S.C. A memorial gathering, organized by IATSE and the Intl. Cinematographers’ Guild, will be held Sunday in Atlanta for Jones’ many friends who are unable to attend the funeral.

Cameras were rolling as the train approached the bridge. The digital camera has been impounded as evidence by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Dept.

Another of the picture’s stars, Wyatt Russell, was at base camp at the time but not on the bridge at the time of the accident. Russell is the son of Kurt Russell.

There is dispute about whether railroad CSX gave permission to “Midnight Rider” to be on its property, but it appears the production did not follow the safety procedures typical of a film shoot that has the cooperation of the railroad. The sheriff’s office is conducting a homicide investigation. Personnel from “Midnight Rider” could face criminal charges on numerous fronts even aside from Jones’ death, including putting an obstruction on a railroad line and criminal trespass.

The CSX line where the accident occurred is considered a main line, with nine to 14 trains a day passing over the bridge where Jones died.

News reports out of Georgia say some crew members have retained a lawyer. Lawsuits against the production company are believed to be imminent. 

Lawyers for the production have not responded to Variety‘s requests for comment.

Jones’ death has prompted an outpouring of emotion across the below-the-line community. A Facebook page set up to honor her memory, “Slates for Sarah,” includes numerous posts from crews around the world with “RIP Sarah,” or similar messages, on their clapperboards.

 

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  1. Just Some Dude says:

    I have also read the story in The Hollywood reporter & they did not have permission to be shooting on the tracks- period. There was NO medic on the shoot (when Hurt needed a Band Aid someone had to dig into their bag for one). Outrageous that anyone could stage a production like this. Even a community college production would know better than this!

  2. Robbie Goldstein says:

    If you search IMDB the crew contained a number of people with a lot of experience. It was not filled with first timers. My complete state of disbelief that there were only a few people that knew they did not have permission. I can’t get it past my mind that was really the case. I am not saying anyone else should be held accountable yet, but someone must have asked are we allowed to go to the location. Just to see it, check lighting setup, measure tracks for mattress, where can equipment be placed so not to be in the shot. And in my experience they would ask location manager for that permission.
    Two scenarios exist at this time. Either he said go to the tracks we have access via permission from the property owner BUT DONT GET ON THEM CSX has not given their permission yet. Or he just said OK, and never said to the crew anything about not having permission. I believe the former. His actions with the protest of not going to film the scene tells me that. And his own knowledge about it being an active track.
    It was not a gun and shoot. Location person must have Called CSX a number of times getting No as his answer. This conversation possibly started two weeks to a a month prior to filming.
    So he would report to Sedrish periodically. And in the gossipy environment of a production no one overheard he did not have permission. I don’t think so. The person’s who likely did not know this were the individuals that started 1or 2 days before to prep the camera, grip and electric. Now going out to shoot on an active train line without the location manager certainly lights my eyes open. So who else knew bit their tongue and silently sat by, I don’t know. But if I was missing on a tech scout or a prep/shoot day at a Railroad location from my experience SOME ONE would ask where is Robbie. And in this case no one spoke up. No one talked about he is not here because he knows we don’t have permission. And he is trying to avoid criminal prosecution. But we will go ahead anyway. What the hell happened here? I just can’t get my head around it. I was a location manager for close to 30 years. I worked with Jay Sedrish. I am truly devastated by this. I worked with people I adored men and women. I know the Sarahs of the industry.. I want answers. I want those who know what happened to speak up Now. I want the law to find those criminally responsible to be held punishable to the extent the law will allow
    and more. For those who knew you are going through your own torture. And I can’t find the words to lighten your grief. Peace be with Sarah

  3. ss says:

    Did any of the stars or producers go to this girls funeral,? that would have been a very gracious thing to do

    • location man says:

      It was reported that William Hurt and Randall Miller attended Sarah’s South Carolina funeral. Must have been awkward for all involved — but would have looked much worse for them had they not attended.

    • Robbie Goldstein says:

      Gracious the producers killed her

  4. anon says:

    Don’t know how any major actor would still want to be in this movie bad karma all over it,

  5. As part of my Safety training at the BBC to become a Production Manager/AD I was told to never allow something to happen where if there was an accident as a result you could not stand up in court to defend your decision. I cannot see how in this case anyone from the Production Company can stand up in court and justify their actions

  6. Tom Jackson says:

    Where was the Director of Photography? He’s the one with years of experience who really knows what’s going on with production on a day to day basis. He should have been aware of the danger,
    lack of safety and looked out for 27 year old Sarah. I’m sure she looked to him at some point in the day…Sorry to say but as the department head he is responsible as well.

  7. anon says:

    why did that part have to be shot on that bridge active track.? that is my question? could have used a green screen, or un active track ,seems to me someone wanted this shot on that track Why? can someone answer that,

  8. dan jones says:

    Criminal charges are expected.

  9. I think the whole fucking show needs to get buried along with Sarah. I don’t see how anybody could proceed in its production with the legacy of her death attached to it. The arrogance and immunity with which this industry typically conducts itself needs to be put in check.

  10. TPVero says:

    Someone should have been calling the union and seeing about hazard pay as soon as that bed was put on a railroad bridge. This goes for the SAG players as well as IATSE. I wager his is a case of the workers not respecting their own union regulations and letting them slide to make points with the production in hopes they will get hired on a future production. You can’t tell me there were not a number of people who knew that this was not a good idea and still said nothing. Where was the location manager? No one looked at a train schedule? If the tracks are shiny they are used often. My condolences to the family of Ms Jones.

    • Robbie Goldstein says:

      The location mgr told the appropriate people in his production hierarchy there was no permit. That they were not allowed to be on the tracks. Production ignored his statements and sent the crew out there. He did not go to location in protest of productions continued negligence. He cannot stop production himself. Until all the facts are known he acted appropriately. Could he have done more possibly. But he did what he did. There are do many should haves and could haves no one for sure can say. Except the people with the power at the time said nothing and promoted the idea everything is good to go.
      Dead wrong..

      • anon says:

        so who are the hierarchy ? why was it so important to use that bridge there are plenty other tracks that are not active, seems to me someone wanted that shot on that bridge. but who/ ? and why?

  11. Adam S. says:

    The word “accident” still irks me. It’s almost like, “Oops! That happened. Darn, nobody could have seen that coming.”

    • Robbie Goldstein says:

      Production Manager, Director and directors producer who is partnered with the director on their production company UNCLAIMED FREIGHT out of Pasadena, California. Having worked close to 30 years as a location manager I still find it hard to believe that something as significant as this could be kept from anyone else. In conversation with production no one overheard they did not have permission. We’re the doors closed was there only one conversation? Wouldn’t a POC secretary intern someone have heard this. Could the location manager have kept it that close to the vest? By not mentioning it to an assistant, if he had one.
      Not that anyone else had the responsibility for the shooting, but knowledge that they were not supposed to do what was planned. It all just seems to pat that only so few knew. Production offices are just to gossipy for information not to leak. What happens when you have information like that and what steps you take would be an individual thing. Drop a dime and tell local authorities what production was intending to do. Call CSX. Fly in the face of the UPM and tell him your insane. I don’t know but sending a stake bed with equipment and a van or two out to the site. And in do so knowing they are all trespassing it boggles my mind that only so few knew. Did they have a tech scout? Who was there? Did they discuss anything? Alot is to be known. Sooner then later I hope. And their publicist still refers it as a tragic accident. My feeling there was intent to trespass by the production people ending in death and injury to people only trying to make a living. Damn them for thinking they are above the law.

    • anon says:

      would that be all the other producers on the film ????

    • Caitlin says:

      I agree 100 percent.

  12. carol says:

    In the entertainment music industry the fame and money can become so tempting that I think they forget and are willing to move forward at all cost, like the old saying the show must go on! in the long run this can kill the spirit and make people very cold this tragedy should be a lesson for all involved. we have to keep a moral compass in our life. sometimes things have to stop in order for us to take inventory of ourselves so we don’t make the same mistakes. God Bless this young woman and her family my heart goes out to all that are suffering during this time

  13. Geoff Drake says:

    This is just incredibly sad. It can’t be understated the impression of legitimacy the presence of the film’s star on set must have lent to the entire crew. The director, and/or others responsible, must be totally insane, or otherwise out of their minds. Barring any backroom deals, this time they’ll catch the “Midnight Rider(s)”, and I doubt Gregg Allman is the man they are looking for. My deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Sarah Jones, “Tragedy” is just not a suffient word.

  14. Steve Mack says:

    So, in their statement the production company has reduced Sarah Jones to “the tragic loss”, well having no trouble at all referring to the project ‘Midnight Rider’ by name. Nice to know where the “below the line” Community stands in Hollywood.

  15. anon says:

    I Think in my opinion. any movie company that would pick up this movie at any future date would be doomed to failure. Hollywood is very carful and fickle not real life, anything to negative, they want no part of it,. so like I said doomed to Fail

  16. Jack Reeves says:

    While placing blame, most people posting here are pointing to the producers and/or the director. What i would like to know is – who represented the below-the-line crew? Where was the union steward? Why didn’t he/she blow the whistle before anything ever occured?

    • equipment guy says:

      Unlike a factory setting (that my father in law works in) that has a union steward usually close by, on a film set I can’t remember the last time I saw a Union Rep on a set. Especially on the first day when it’s a big love fest and nobody has screwed up YET!.. I just remember I saw a Union Rep on an Eddie Murphy movie (Haunted House) about 10 years ago. Sad but true. Poor Sarah never had a chance, I’m thinking no one on that set said shit about being on those tracks when they setup because on film sets nobody wants to be THAT guy/girl who isn’t down with the cause. Everyone on a film crew knows what I’m talking about.

  17. Steve (SAG member) says:

    Senseless. This scene should have been rehearsed to within an inch of its life. These dangerous stunts should not be attempted by production teams that are not willing to invest the time and money into set safety. This is the problem with the “new” film industry in the south. Too many financial cutbacks so that producers can get even richer. They always cut at the bottom – day players, safety and other concerns while the top reaps the benefits.

  18. Julie Jakoubek says:

    A great website dealing entirely with railroads and production safety can be found at:

    http://www.rtms-movietrains.com

    The company owner, Art Miller, is a full-time railroad safety and crew certification manager for Iowa Pacific Railroad out of Chicago and Palestine and Lubbock, Texas.

  19. stopandcare says:

    Sandy, we are all looking for answers to good questions about who was negligent in my friends death. I’m local to this film community and I’m insulted at your rhetoric that points the finger instead of asking good solid questions . Who are you to place judgement and what do you do in this industry? Talk is Cheap. Until a call sheet is revealed and the proper inquiry is finished we can’t honestly place blame. I started in the film business here in Atlanta over 20 years ago. I’m also Local 80 proud with every Safety Passport class there is. Also if you live here in Georgia you’ve recognized the industry has picked up and moved to Atlanta. Furthermore all those LA crews are now Locals to our State! Your comments are not very thought out and you have insulted everyone trying to make this industry safer.

    • sandy says:

      Stopandcare: My comments are part of a longer conversation, so you missed the point: The crew on this film came from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana and California. This has nothing to do with where people originated (film crew are, by and large, gypsies). I have been commenting on “place’ and “people” because Variety has inexplicably not named the L.A. production company making this film, while repeatedly naming the GA company that was hired by the L.A. company. As a result, the “Georgia” film community is taking a beating, with comments ranging from “inexperienced” to “incompetent” to “fearful.” The L.A. Times, Hollywood Reporter and Deadline are reporting the correct names.

  20. H. says:

    For anyone interested in how railroad shoots are done in a professional and safe manner, please click on or paste in the link below. Every time I have done a railroad shoot we have followed strict procedures and a copy of this document is attached to the daily call sheet distributed to the crew every day. There is no such thing as an “unexpected” train on a safely run railroad shoot or any work done by any company that has access to rail lines.

    http://www.csatf.org/pdf/28RAILROADS.pdf

  21. G E PERRY says:

    I have lived and worked in the area for 59 years.your movie crew screwed up and should get the bejesus sued out of them for getting this girl killed.CSX doesn’t hand out permission slips to anyone damn fool enough to walk out onto an active train trestle.especially those where train traffic in excess of 60mph is an hourly event.I cannot believe that in this entire group of adults there wasn’t enough brain cells to see this was an accident waiting to happen.

    • sandy says:

      Perry, it appears you’ve just joined the conversation. All of the above-the-line on Midnight Rider (producers, producer/director, UPM, D.P., A.D.) were from Los Angeles. The production company producing this film is Pasadena-based Unclaimed Freight. The Georgia crew went out on those tracks trusting their leaders. If William Hurt was in fact on the set, as this article states, his presence would have given the crew even more reason to believe all was being done by the books. The only difference between local crew members and an L.A. crew is this: L.A. crew work all over the country and know what normal safety standards look like; they would have noticed that there were no railroad flagmen, medic, ambulance, etc., which are standard procedure in a dangerous location. Live railroad tracks are, by definition, dangerous. The Georgia crew either didn’t recognize the warning signs or were unwilling to speak up.

      • M33 says:

        I’m not saying Sedrish isn’t guilty, I just hate that everyone keeps referring to “LA” producers. Nick Gant was the first idiot to expose himself when he said (in a public statement) that the rail company was lying and then asserted that they/he had permission to shoot on the track. Then Sedrish (dumberer) came out and said “that’s complicated” when asked if they had permission. Since those two morons are the only ones that have publicly admitted to their deceit, I blame them first. As the facts are released I’m sure the list of a**holes will get even longer. I don’t know Sedrish but Nick Gant has a track record of being “that guy” he will live up to his reputation as he always does.

      • Brad says:

        Jeez..M33 probably IS Jay Sedrich.. That’s just his kind of Machhivellian BS.

      • Brad says:

        Nick Gant couldn’t produce a local car lot spot..it’s all UNCLAIMED FREIGHT..Miller/Savin/Sedrich called the shots..wise up already.

      • sandy says:

        M33: Agreed, this is not a GA vs. L.A. thing. Variety reported Meddin’s role (in earlier articles) but has neglected to name the L.A. production company that is producing the film. The Los Angeles Times, Deadline and Hollywood Reporter are reporting it.

      • M33 says:

        B.S.!!! The lead production company and producer managing these logistics was Nick Gant of Meddin Studios in Savannah!!! This has nothing to do with LA vs. GA, this has to do with negligence and stupidity by irresponsible adults.

  22. gillman says:

    “In light of the tragic loss, we have decided to put the production of ‘Midnight Rider’ on hold.” Translation…key investor pulled the plug.

    • ts says:

      I just have a question if anyone can answer it I know on films like this many attorneys are involved they do all the contracts will they hold any liability?

  23. Gc says:

    Production really dropped the ball on this. It didn’t take a genius to know shooting on live tracks is a bad idea.

    What’s apparent they tried to steal a shot and got caught.

    When asked if they had permission a producer said “its complicated”

    Not really, either they had permission or not.

    Unfortunately some people get caught up in this “hey we’re shooting movie and can do whatever we want” mentality.

    And we see the results, possible criminal trespassing and negligent homicide.

    Even on my first set I’ve had to check a couple people on some common sense issues, not dangerous but just common sense

  24. Production kills says:

    To bad the director wasn’t killed instead. Production cutting corners and putting crew in danger? Big surprise….

  25. cs says:

    IT appears William hurt was on the bridge, and camera was rolling. I just hope it caught footage of what happened. I know that sounds bad, but this girl deserves some justice, if the people involved could not and did not do what was right to put safety first,

    • Localite says:

      @cs – in an article on another site (I forget which site), it said a digital movie camera was rolling when the train arrived and that camera has been impounded as evidence.

  26. equipment guy says:

    A couple of things, this is the second article I’ve read that staes William Hurt was on set that day and I’ve been on several shoots where we have stolen a shot on a “prep” day. Maybe not a dialogue scene but a dream sequence or some type of pickup shot that that comes up. Coming back to the William Hurt issue let’s be clear of the many people to blame here do NOT blame an actor for Sarah’s death. Totally unfair! The actors are not in charge of permits, location scouting and hundreds of other issues. I keep coming back to the Director, it’s HIS set and as a Director myself who came off a shoot a few months agoI am very much responsible where I put my crew with the camera to get MY shots. That is where most of the questions need to be asked first.

    • Gc says:

      I keep hearing from people how the producers are responsible, but they fail to understand on set the director is boss especially with creative decisions.

      So it’s impossible for the director not to know especially a producer/director.

      It could be possible that it was a last minute decision made in set and the production office wasn’t necessarily in the know

      • equipment guy says:

        Agree, you have to have been on a few sets to understand this. Director and DP get talking or Director decides out of the blue he doesn’t like the angle or backdrop of the shot and all of a sudden everything camera, C-stands, lights and so on get moved. The call sheet is not the Bible, it’s a game plan that can be very fluid. So while the Producers and Production Office are very much on the hook I’m curious how bad Randalls out hanging alone on this decision. On a set the buck stops at the Director door.

  27. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    “This tragic story seems to get worse daily! Its clear now, most certainly not an accident but a clear case of negligence. Now to what degree is up to Law Enforcement. Another tidbit I would like to add. I read it was First Shoot Day. Ok, that’s fine but they decided on a pretty heavy schedule for the first day. I realize I sound like a idiot saying this, but I feel as a Director myself to take it as easy as possible for the first weeks leading to the crew working like clockwork. But instead they went with the Dream Bed on the Raidroad Tracks sequence with Train.

    • equipment guy says:

      I agree also J.E. as a fellow director but on my last shoot I had to grab a very hectic bus depot shoot for the first day, not how I like to do it but it was a schedule thing.

  28. stopandcare says:

    Reports have that day as a Prep Day not Actually Day 1 on the call sheet. If that’s true only a skeleton crew would’ve been there. We all asked; Where was Stunts, the KeyGrip or anyone with sense enough to see the bad decisions being made? Prep Day, they probably were not even there! Was there a medic on set? I hear there wasn’t . Lots of answers forthcoming to help the world understand how this could possibly happen! To my friend and team mate, Sarah Jones Check those bits of information,please?

  29. curiousPA says:

    I hope Gregg Allman can wrangle the script, rights, etc away from these jerks and find others to tell his story.

  30. Andy says:

    It’ll never resume. There is litigation most likely forthcoming for negligent homicide or manslaughter.

  31. Robbie Goldstein says:

    Please tell me William Hurt was blind, deaf, and dumb to the stupidity of his production team. Why wouldn’t Sara feel comfortable that everything is under control if HURTwas on the tracks.
    Robert Goldstein

    • Debbie Valenta says:

      There’s nothing in any articles I’ve read that mentions William Hurt being on set that day and actors are very vocal about stuff like this, unlike young crew members who feel it’s best to keep one’s mouth shut about any reservations they may have about safety in order to keep their jobs.

      • Debbie Valenta says:

        Robbie, you’ll notice I attempted to change my comment but Variety wouldn’t let me, so it came out as an additional comment below the original.

      • Localite says:

        Wyatt Russell was on the site as well, albeit in a holding area and not on the actual set.

      • Robbie Goldstein says:

        Yes the article where I placed my comment States it..

      • tina says:

        was he on the set do you know?

      • Debbie Valenta says:

        This is the first I’ve heard of William Hurt being on set that day and actors are usually very vocal about stuff like this, unlike young crew members who feel it’s best to keep one’s mouth shut about any reservations they may have about safety in order to keep their jobs.

  32. TPVero says:

    Often the people who pay union dues don’t respect the contract and don’t have the gonads to call the union when they think something is wrong. They let things slide and this is what happens. They let things slide so they can be seen as ‘cool’ so they will be hired again. All this so a producer can get rich. Putting a bed on a railroad track without the proper permissions and safety standards in place is more than negligent. That decision is not made by the lower staff members.

  33. anon says:

    Shamoon, please quit posting your work at home adds on here, this is a very important site for young lady who lost her life Thank you.

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