Randall Miller Says ‘Midnight Rider’ Accident Is ‘My Responsibility’

Making his first comments since he was sentenced to two years in jail, director Randall Miller said in a statement on Friday that he accepts responsibility for the Feb. 20, 2014 train accident on the set on “Midnight Rider.”

“It was a horrible tragedy that will haunt me forever,” Miller said in a statement. “Although I relied on my team, it is ultimately my responsibility and was my decision to shoot the scripted scene that caused this tragedy.

He added, “The location manager, the production designer, the unit production manager, the cinematographer, assistant director and others all made mistakes that lead to this, but I have taken responsibility because I could have asked more questions and I was the one in charge.”

Miller, serving his time in Wayne County Jail in Jesup, Ga., was sentenced on March 9 after pleading guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones. He also was sentenced to eight years probation after his incarceration, and is banned from directing and major directorial duties for a period of 10 years.

“I pleaded guilty for three reasons: first, to protect my wife and family; second, out of respect for the Jones family and to not put them through a difficult trial; and, third, to take responsibility for my failure in not knowing that every safety measure was in place,” he said in the statement.

He also said that before the train accident, he had never had a significant accident on one of his sets.

His wife, Jody Savin, was producer on the project, and also was indicted on the same criminal charges. But those were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

She also issued a statement, saying, “The accident, which took the life of Sarah Jones, has been tragic for everyone involved. Sarah’s family is broken, and ours too. Our children and I love Randy so much and are trying to be strong for him as he has been so strong and brave for us.”

Since the accident, family and friends of Jones have been campaigning for greater awareness of n-set safety.

Miller said that he hopes “my actions have spared the Jones family more anguish and that the on set safety measures that were lacking before this terrible tragedy will now take precedence for all in the industry.”

Prosecutors in the case have said that Miller was aware that they did not have permission to shoot on the train trestle that day, and that it was a live track. Miller’s attorney, Ed Garland, disputed those claims in a press conference after Miller plead guilty. He noted that Miller would not have gone on the tracks himself had he known that there was a danger of another train coming.

ABC News’s “20/20” on Friday featured more video footage from the set as the train is approaching the trestle, which crosses the Altamaha River near Jesup. The footage starts with actor William Hurt lying on a hospital bed across the tracks — part of a dream sequence — and crew members scrambling to get off as the lights of the train as seen in the distance. The camerman sought protection by hugging a girder, his camera pointing out toward the river. The footage also includes the aftermath, as Miller assesses what happened.

The footage is similar to that shown in court last week.


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Miller’s full statement:

“On Feb 20th, 2014, a great number of mistakes were made and the terrible accident occurred which took Sarah Jones’ life. It was a horrible tragedy that will haunt me forever. Although I relied on my team, it is ultimately my responsibility and was my decision to shoot the scripted scene that caused this tragedy. I pleaded guilty for three reasons: first, to protect my wife and family; second, out of respect for the Jones family and to not put them through a difficult trial; and, third, to take responsibility for my failure in not knowing that every safety measure was in place. The location manager, the production designer, the unit production manager, the cinematographer, assistant director and others all made mistakes that lead to this, but I have taken responsibility because I could have asked more questions and I was the one in charge. I have worked in the film industry as a director for 25 years and never had a significant accident of any kind on any one of my sets. I am heartbroken over this. I hope my actions have spared the Jones family more anguish and that the onset safety measures that were lacking before this terrible tragedy will now take precedence for all in the industry.”

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