UPDATED: Campaign Launched to Honor Sarah Jones During Oscars’ In Memoriam Tribute

Sarah Jones Midnight Rider Death

In Wake of Train Accident, Campaign Launched for On-Set Safety 'Watchdog'

A petition campaign has been launched to include Sarah Jones, the 27-year-old camera assistant killed in last week’s train accident on the set of “Midnight Rider,” in the In Memoriam segment on Sunday’s Oscarcast.

“Only 27 years old, her promising life was cut short when she was struck by a train working on a dangerous set,” the petition reads. “Crew members are the unsung heroes of film and television production who work long hours and sometimes very dangerous conditions for the love of filmmaking. Sarah Elizabeth Jones was one of us.”

“We ask for Sarah Elizabeth Jones’ love and passion for filmmaking be acknowledged on the grandest stage of all, The Academy Awards.”

The site had more than 17,000 signatures by late Tuesday.

A memorial service for Jones is scheduled for Wednesday at Ashland United Methodist Church  in Columbia, S.C. Other memorials are scheduled for Wednesday in Lexington, S.C., and for Sunday in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page called “Slates for Sarah” has been set up in which production crews offer their own tribute to Jones, posting photos of film slates bearing messages in memoriam. It is also a mobilization campaign to garner support for an industrywide effort to add a watchdog to film sets to monitor safety procedures.

“We need one person on every set, ‘camera test,’ splinter, second, third or fourth unit who knows safety and the rules, does not get a check directly from production, and is not afraid to call anyone out when they are not doing their job.”The working title for the watchdogs who will prowl every location of every set, large and small, is Sarah’s Team. And yes they will have the coolest socks and hats and be the most fun person on set. It will always be easy to spot ‘Sarah’s Team,’ you will know them well, so they can know you and keep you safe.”

Seven others were injured in the train accident on Thursday near Jesup, Ga. It is still under investigation by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, CSX transportation police, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The film’s star, William Hurt, was on the set when the accident occurred, but got off the tracks unharmed, according to two sources who were present at the time. A spokeswoman for the actor said he would have no comment.

Jones’ family is requesting that donations be made to the Sarah Jones Scholarship Fund, c/o Brookland-Cayce High School, 1300 State St., Cayce, SC 29033.

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  1. Deborah Jean Ascheman says:

    Please remember Sarah Jones. She was one of the “little” people who made your pictures pop. Her family deserves this.

  2. location man says:

    If it were William Hurt who got hit and killed by the train, and not Sarah Jones, don’t you think he’d be mentioned in the Oscar Memorium?

  3. drm2012 says:

    How about NOT calling her an assistant? She obviously didn’t have anyone around her or she wouldn’t be dead. What happened? Listing trying to find out on google.

  4. private eye says:

    So if there was a permit or even an email approving the filming on the tracks or bridge from CSX why not post it?

    If as a producer from the stidio says CSX is lying and that they did give permission – then post the proof or give it to Variety to follow up.

    All these name calling and positioning by people not involved in the production or crew are mostly self congratulating themselves on how good they are at their job – then adding how sorry for the killed crew member at the end of their post.

    Its all very morbid this self acclaim.

    Lets see some REAL proof from the production or the stidios.

    Variety: why dont YOU ask the studio for proof of permission?

    You seem to be in touch with someone there.

    Lets see the proof of permission.

    An email or letter!

    Also lets hear from CSX if they had personel on site and get their report.

    Sutely this should be the first inside look at what happened not these denials all the time from CSX and counter claims from the production.

    Obviously they do not want to admit they have little or no control over the trains.

    A train this big does not show up unannounced.

    There are schedules for trains that have a departure day and time and a destination and ETA.

    Cant one of you critics and amatuer detectives look up the schedules online?

    Did CSX give the production team wrong times for the 2 scheduled trains?

    Come on this is simple detective work even for Variety.

    Instead of reprinting other peoples reports pick up the phone and do a little investigative work. Your job.

    • H. says:

      Pardon me, but anyone with a bit of experience in the film industry knows about “Film Industry Safety Bulletin #28-Railroads” Here is the link and you should read it for yourself:

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

      All the guilds and union locals, including the DGA, are signatories to this document which spells out the procedures and requirements for filming in and around trains and rail lines. As someone who has done several train shoots under these requirements and procedures I know exactly what I am talking about in this situation. Not only has it now been widely reported that the production did not have permission from the railroad owner/operator CSX, the mere fact that Sarah Jones was killed and that this incident even occurred points to several simple facts. Any railroad shoot is controlled by the railroad, not by the film production and CSX would have had multiple personnel on scene. Any activity by the film crew would have been tightly orchestrated by CSX, any camera position, any thing placed on the tracks and especially the regular, advanced and timely announcement of inbound trains. There is no such thing as an “unexpected” train, a term that has been frequently used in describing this incident. In addition safety zones would have been in place that would have allowed everyone to quickly move to a place of security in the event of an emergency. Both personnel from CSX and from the film production would have checked and double checked all the arrangements. CSX is an established and professional railroad operator and they constantly deal with track access requests from not only film companies, but all sorts of other companies-utilities, construction crews and survey crews just to name a few and they say no often. Do you really think they would allow something like this to happen?

      • uninvolvedandpartialtofactsnotconjecture says:

        Pardon me….”

        yes yes – H

        I’m sure there is a rule for about EVERYTHING

        The question is – if the production WAS given approval to be on the tracks – – – then let’s see that permission – an email, letter, permit – whatever.

        As others have commented – where did this train come from – it must have been scheduled – and why wasn’t it on a schedule that CSX had given the crew.

        I’m sure if any of these grips or 1st AD’s or whoever had been assured that no train was scheduled to run during a certain time – and one suddenly appeared – they would all claim that they had done their ‘due dilligence’ and were clear of any wrong doing.

        So I am just asking questions – as opposed to others jumping to conclusions, pointing to ‘rules’ and coming to conclusions – without really any word from the production or crew that was / were on the scene.

        So all I’m saying is – movies are filmed on location spots that can be dangerous all the time – and that crews are dependant of information provided to them – ‘no train scheduled’ – so my question remains the same:

        If you were filming on an airport and had permisson to film there – and suddenly a jumbo jet landed and ran over the crew – whose fault would it be?

        Yours because you were not scanning radio freqencies or had lookouuts posted – or the airport for failing to tell you there was a jet scheduled to land – and someone at the airport forgot or missed the flight plan?

        So all I am doing is asking the questions!

        Why was the train not on the schedule supplied by CSX to the crew?

        Was there a CSX employee on site (who let the crew onto the tracks)? Was he in contact with anyone at CSX or a signalman?

        So if there was a CSX employee on site – let’s see his report (or is CSX hiding it – or changing it before releasing it)?

        Where is the proof from the studio’s that CSX gave them approval to be on the tracks?

        Not blaming anyone.

        Just asking questions.

        Don’t shoot the messenger.

  5. Phillemena says:

    I thought the Oscars are for the actors. Doesn’t the crew have other associations and celebrations of their own? They really should have. In other professions for example, doctors get recognized at the AMA meetings, and nurses get recognized at their own associations meetings. Both work in healthcare but they are separate professions.

    • juststatingtheobvious says:

      If the Oscars were only for Actors there wouldn’t be Categories for: Cinematography, Sound, VFX, Costumes, Hair & Make-up, Editing etc etc……

  6. Sarah deserves the special honor of being included in this year’s Oscar memorial because we film crews are tired if being taken for granted for so long.
    Its the least the Academy could do. Never mind their rules! This is a rule that *should* be broken, as no lives will be lost for it but one very important life will be honored!

  7. H. says:

    Hey Ted! Sarah Jones was not killed on a film set. She, along with the other crew members were directed by Directors Guild of American members of the Producing and Directing staff to position themselves on a non-permitted, unauthorized, uncontrolled and exceedingly dangerous live train track and trestle location without the permission, knowledge or supervision of the railroad owner and operator CSX. The DGA staff did this with the complete knowledge that what they were doing was illegal, dangerous and life threatening based upon DGA accepted, agreed upon and published motion picture industry guidelines and procedures for working on and around railroads and on film sets and locations in general. There is no precedent for this in the history of motion picture production. Yes, accidents and deaths have happened on film sets, but this was not a film set. There is no such thing as an “unexpected” train on a properly permitted and supervised film set. This is the story you should be reporting.

    • uninvolvedandpartialtofactsnotconjecture says:

      Response
      To “sheriifs report…”

      So where did this ‘sheriff” get his information from?

      If it was from CSX then it is suspect.

      Im sure the only crime that this country sheriff had investigated is pretty local stuff and being thrown into the spotlight is unnerving and he needs to say something – anything!

      So the reliance on his ‘report’ should be tempered with some reasonable questions as to its fairness or trustworthyness.

      “I didnt do it” isnt reasonable enough to accept it as the truth.

      So I do feel any report this early based on a denial by an involved party is UNSUBSTATIATED!

    • uninvolvedandpartialtofactsnotconjecture says:

      How do you know they disnt have permision?

      How do you know there was not a CSX railroad official there?

      Were you there?

      Were you parr of the crew?

      Where are you gettinf your information from – nor the unsubstantiated ‘comments’ on this sire.

      Please let us all know where you are getting your FACTS(?) from.

      I am sure we all want to know.

      • uninvolvedandpartialtofactsnotconjecture says:

        yes yes – H

        I’m sure there is a rule for about EVERYTHING

        The question is – if the production WAS given approval to be on the tracks – – – then let’s see that permission – an email, letter, permit – whatever.

        As others have commented – where did this train come from – it must have been scheduled – and why wasn’t it on a schedule that CSX had given the crew.

        I’m sure if any of these grips or 1st AD’s or whoever had been assured that no train was scheduled to run during a certain time – and one suddenly appeared – they would all claim that they had done their ‘due dilligence’ and were clear of any wrong doing.

        So I am just asking questions – as opposed to others jumping to conclusions, pointing to ‘rules’ and coming to conclusions – without really any word from the production or crew that was / were on the scene.

        So all I’m saying is – movies are filmed on location spots that can be dangerous all the time – and that crews are dependant of information provided to them – ‘no train scheduled’ – so my question remains the same:

        If you were filming on an airport and had permisson to film there – and suddenly a jumbo jet landed and ran over the crew – whose fault would it be?

        Yours because you were not scanning radio freqencies or had lookouuts posted – or the airport for failing to tell you there was a jet scheduled to land – and someone at the airport forgot or missed the flight plan?

        So all I am doing is asking the questions!

        Why was the train not on the schedule supplied by CSX to the crew?

        Was there a CSX employee on site (who let the crew onto the tracks)? Was he in contact with anyone at CSX or a signalman?

        So if there was a CSX employee on site – let’s see his report (or is CSX hiding it – or changing it before releasing it)?

        Where is the proof from the studio’s that CSX gave them approval to be on the tracks?

        Not blaming anyone.

        Just asking questions.

        Don’t shoot the messenger.

      • H. says:

        Pardon me, but anyone with a bit of experience in the film industry knows about “Film Industry Safety Bulletin #28-Railroads” Here is the link and you should read it for yourself:

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

        All the guilds and union locals, including the DGA, are signatories to this document which spells out the procedures and requirements for filming in and around trains and rail lines. As someone who has done several train shoots under these requirements and procedures I know exactly what I am talking about in this situation. Not only has it now been widely reported that the production did not have permission from the railroad owner/operator CSX, the mere fact that Sarah Jones was killed and that this incident even occurred points to several simple facts. Any railroad shoot is controlled by the railroad, not by the film production and CSX would have had multiple personnel on scene. Any activity by the film crew would have been tightly orchestrated by CSX, any camera position, any thing placed on the tracks and especially the regular, advanced and timely announcement of inbound trains. There is no such thing as an “unexpected” train, a term that has been frequently used in describing this incident. In addition safety zones would have been in place that would have allowed everyone to quickly move to a place of security in the event of an emergency. Both personnel from CSX and from the film production would have checked and double checked all the arrangements. CSX is an established and professional railroad operator and they constantly deal with track access requests from not only film companies, but all sorts of other companies-utilities, construction crews and survey crews just to name a few and they say no often. Do you really think they would allow something like this to happen?

        One more point in response to your questions. The film industry is a small and tight knit group of craft professionals who keep in close contact with each other.

      • Calm down, you sound guilty... says:

        The Sheriff’s report states that the permit to shoot on the track was denied. Does that count as an “unsubstantiated” in your opinion?

  8. Art Miller says:

    The railroad workplace is so specialized and hazardous that having a trained Railroad Coordinator on every railroad location is the ONLY option that will guarantee that there are “no more Sarahs.”

    • CSX says:

      ** There WAS a CSX official on site.

      CSX is so screwed up that they didnt know which trains were using the tracks.

      The train was not scheduled.

      The question should be where did it come from and how to get on the tracks?

      The signalman was given notice that filming was scheduled on the tracks.

      A CSX official was on the scene at all time.

      The padlocked gate was opened by an official from CSX.

      The crew could not have access without full knowledge of CSX.

      Someone let this train on the tracks. Unscheduled.

      Where did the train come from?

      Who allowed it on the tracks?

      Was it even supposed to be on these tracks?

      This is a half a mile long train they do not suddenly just appear.

      CSX Has a lot of explaining to do and refuses to have that signal man Interviewed.

      What is CSX hiding?

      • uninvolvedandpartialtofactsnotconjecture says:

        @ Reason

        What proof do you have there was not a CSX employee on scene?

        Why are you sounding so adversarial withot proof of anything?

        How do you know there are 9 to 14 trains a day on that track?

        Do you have a schedule?

        Can you review that schedule and tell all of us if a train was scheduled for that day and at that time?

        Can you post a link to it.

        Thanks you.

      • Reason says:

        Why are blaming CSX? What proof do you have that there was a CSX rep on set? Why are you writing two highly defensive comments with needless spacing that have nothing to do with Sarah? Regardless of CSX, the production should have had a plan in case an unscheduled train did appear. They were on a track with 9 to 14 trains a day.

  9. Stephen Crocker says:

    The big night of our industry is fast approaching, but is it really ours? It’s the night, studio executives, producers, directors and actors come together in a Cinderella night of glittering gowns, glamour and Oscar gold. The winners of the night will thank studios, agents, directors, God, wives, mothers, fathers, teachers, gurus, maybe even their goldfish for inspiration. After which they all will be whisked off in a fleet of limos to a night filled with over the top celebration, imbibing on the finest champaign and spirits, indulging on the most equisite gourmet food, spare no expense and let’s not forget about the lavish entertainment that awaits…All this without a word or a whisper for the hundreds of technicians that captured their image and voice to the silver screen. But what about the shooting crews? What about the people who spend twelve to sixteen hours a day, driving from one location to the next, working at all hours of the day or night, working in all types of weather, dealing with the high demands from producers and directors, the pressure and yes, the dangerous situations crews are reutinely confronted with to achieve the “vision” of those above the line. Don’t get me wrong, technicians love what they do, after all they are the film makers and as such have spent years fine tuning their craft and their pride, dedication unparalleled with the obvious exception of the armed forces, but unlike the military, at the end of the day, despite the aches and pains and exhaustion, we get to come home alive after the celluloid battle. This was not the case on Thursday February 20th 2014 when a young, dedicated camera assistant gave her all her effort and trust to a producer and director that had her work on an active railroad track on a spanning bridge outside of Savannah, Georgia and lost her life in a tragic, avoidable accident.
    What does this all have to do with the Academy awards you might ask. On a night we honor those of our industry with the recognizable names and faces, wouldn’t it be the right thing to do to honor and recognize Sarah Jones who lost her young life trying to help realize someone else’s vision, someone else’s Oscar dreams… It’s the least our industry can do, it’s the descent, compassionate thing to do.

  10. It was my understanding as a Key Grip that I was responsible for set safety. I took that part of my job very seriously and was a few times angered that others didn’t. I did start every day with a safety speech that went like this: “Safety First!” I got help from my crews in the pursuit of maintaining a safe set. I stopped doing a holiday rig when the “producers” stopped listening to what I had to say that kept the job safe. The key is for all on a set to work with the department heads to watch out for themselves and each other. I am sorry for the friends family and co-workers of Sara, but encourage the Academy to allow the safety system in place for over a hundred years to be explained, as maybe somebody forgot.

  11. Mike says:

    I agree with the previous comments. There must be a designated safety person. I’m tired of “we’re running out of light”. Well sorry, even if it costs you hundreds of thousands to shoot another day, it isn’t worth a life to do something just to get it done in time. As a PA I often find myself locking up street and holding down trucks/cars, producers getting annoyed when you don’t drive fast enough or stop instead of racing to get through a yellow light. I want to take my time and be safe.

  12. If we truly want to recognize Sarah Jones and this tragic event, we should be considering REAL change in the production process. 15 years ago, as a 1st Assistant Camera, I was involved in a car stunt that went bad. Myself & 4 others were struck by a out of control stunt car, Many of the rules regarding these types of shots were ignored. We were “running out of light”. There wasn’t a safety meeting, set was run by an inexperienced 2nd2nd AD, No bail out point established, no escape route planned, no safety person on set, all of these were violations of established rules that govern safety on the set. All of these rules ignored. 5 crew members hospitalized.

    The ideal of a On-Set safety person is absolute necessity! Someone whose only responsibility is for the safety of the Cast & Crew. Not a safety person working for the studios, Not the AD who has to keeps things moving, not the Director, DP, Key Grip, etc. California requires a fire marshal, why not a safety officer? R.I.P. Sarah Jones

  13. Jaymes says:

    I can appreciate how everyone has rallyed in support of honoring the life and accomplishments of Sarah. A petition to have her recognized in this years Oscar telecast. Should we include Harold Ramis, Maxmillian Schell, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Tom Sherak, Sid Caesar, Shirley Temple Black, Dave Madden, Russell Johnson, Saul Zaentz and any others between now and March 2nd?

    I sympathize for her family, friends and coworkers.

    The Memorium segment is meant to honor those in the entertainment field who have passed in a given year. It is not a forum or platform in which to articulate the irresponsibility of an accident, overdose, specific disease or illness.

    I hope to see Sarah honored next year, along with all those who have passed in these past two months.

    A heartfelt condolence to her family, friends and coworkers.

  14. ACL3 says:

    Her name and picture deserves to be up on that big screen with everyone else the industry has lost this year…I hope the Academy will do the right thing and honor her memory.

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