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Sheriff’s Report: ‘Midnight Rider’ Was Denied Railroad Permit, According to CSX Email

Exec producer replied "That's complicated" to question about permission, says report

The sheriff’s office of Wayne County, Ga., released an incident report that suggests the production company did not have permission from CSX to shoot a scene on a train trestle and in fact may have been denied such clearance.

In the incident report, released  to local reporters on Monday, Wayne County Sheriff Sergeant Ben Robertson writes that he witnessed a conversation between executive producer Jay Sedrish and and employee of CSX. “In my presence, Mr. Sedrish was asked by an employee of CSX if he had permission to be on the trestle or tracks and Mr. Sedrish replied, ‘That’s complicated.’

“According to the CSX employee, the production company had previously been denied permission to film on the trestle, and there was electronic correspondence to verify that fact,” Robertson wrote.

According to the incident report, the e-mail was between location manager Charlie Baxter and CSX employee Carla Groleau.

Sarah Jones was killed when a train unexpectedly arrived at the location on Thursday, when the production crew was planning a scene in which a mattress was laid out across the tracks. Seven other people were injured.

Meanwhile, the production company behind “Midnight Rider” has withdrawn its requests for permits to shoot in the Savannah area this week, a local official said on Monday.

William Hammargren, interim film services administrator for the city of Savannah Film Office, said that the project was scheduled to begin shooting in the area on Monday and the production company had several pending permit requests, but retracted all of them on Sunday.

“We have not issued them any permits and currently have no pending permit requests from the project,” he said.

Unclaimed Freight Prods. is the production company and Open Road Films is the distributor.

Meanwhile, Steven Poster, president of International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, of which Jones was a member, issued a statement in which he said, “Local 600’s membership and IATSE members across the country are mourning the loss of Sarah Jones, a 27-year old camera assistant, who died in a tragic accident last Thursday while shooting on the set of “Midnight Rider” in Savannah, Georgia. Sarah was a smart, talented camera assistant with an infectious personality and a promising career ahead of her.

“When Locals 600 and 491 received the call about the accident on late Thursday afternoon (local time), we immediately sent representatives to the site. We are cooperating with ongoing government investigations including OSHA, and NTSB and the Local Sheriff’s office and we are providing grief counseling for the crew.

“The safety of our crews is of paramount importance to this union and we will work tirelessly to ensure that a tragedy of this kind never happens again.There is no way we can mitigate the pain and the loss of Sarah. But we hope that something good can come out of this very unfortunate situation. It will surely shape our talks with producers in the future. There will be memorials across the country to honor the memory of beloved member, Sarah Jones.”

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