‘Midnight Rider’ Location Manager Lawyer Defends Client’s Conduct

Midnight Rider Doctortown Trestle Sarah Jones
Mike McCall for Variety

Veteran Charley Baxter's account likely to be crucial

More than a month after the fatal accident on the set of “Midnight Rider,” a key question for the homicide investigation is whether the production had been granted permission to film on the Georgia railroad tracks and trestle where camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed.

CSX, the owner of the railroad, has told investigators that producers of the indie film were denied permission to work on the tracks. The search for answers is likely to hinge on the statement of location manager Charley Baxter and the information he gave to director Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and unit production/manager Jay Sedrish.

Baxter’s attorney, Kirk Schroder of Richmond, Va., said that Baxter is “heartbroken” over the tragic accident but could not speak publicly about the circumstances because he signed a standard confidentiality agreement when he joined the production. “He is absolutely honoring his contractual obligations, and he is fully cooperating with investigators,” Schroder told Variety.

While it’s known that the investigation is focusing on the question of who put the crew on the bridge, sheriff’s investigators in Wayne County, Ga., have revealed few details. According to the sheriff’s incident report, CSX said it had an email between Baxter and CSX employee Carla Groleau that could verify that “Midnight Rider” was denied permission.

Baxter’s account is likely to go a long way toward determining who faces civil suits or criminal charges. Baxter, an industry yeteran, was location manager on the 1999 film “October Sky,” which featured a railroad sequence.  Art Miller, who worked as a railroad consultant on that film, calls Baxter “a good man” who knows about working with trains.

If Baxter warned producers that they did not have permission to be on the tracks and their plan to place a bed on the tracks and that a shoot on the bridge was dangerous, that would likely increase the legal jeopardy for those who did make the decision to shoot there.

“He and I both believe that when the facts come out, his conduct will speak for itself, and he certainly will stand by his conduct,” Schroder said.

Baxter was not at the location on the day of the accident, and none of the location unit — Baxter, assistant location manager Stephanie Humphreys and location assistant Jonette Page — were called to the set that day, according to the call sheet. Baxter’s account of the events leading up to the shoot will likely reveal whether their absence was significant.

Jones, the second camera assistant, was killed and seven others were injured in the crash. The accident occurred when a train arrived at the bridge during shooting of a dream sequence in the Gregg Allman biopic featuring stars William Hurt and Wyatt Russell. The sequence involved putting a hospital bed on the tracks.

The crew was warned by first assistant director Hillary Schwartz that a train might arrive during shooting, and if so, they would have a minute to clear the tracks and get off the bridge once they heard a whistle. When they did hear a whistle, they did not have enough time to clear, and the train caught them on the bridge. The train hit the bed, shattering it. Some of the crew were hit by shrapnel, including Jones, who was knocked into the path of the train and killed. Others suffered broken bones.

Rayonier, the paper company that owns the land surrounding the tracks at the accident site, has confirmed it gave the production permission to be on the land. However Rayonier does not own the tracks or have authority to grant access to them. According to the sheriff’s incident report, after the accident a CSX employee asked Sedrish if he had permission to be on the trestle or tracks and Sedrish replied, “That’s complicated.”

In the days following the accident, Nick Gant of Meddin Studios, which provided production services for “Midnight Rider,” said no corners were cut on the production and CSX was not being honest with local officials.

One of the lingering repercussions of this accident is likely to be a greater focus on who is responsible for saying “No” on sets when confronted with a dangerous situation. Crew members are generally reluctant to say no for fear they will not be rehired in the future. But many feel they are routinely put in dangerous situations.

Under the Directors Guild of America collective bargaining agreement, the first assistant director is responsible for holding safety meetings on the set and reporting safety problems — a reform adopted following the fatal accident on the set of “The Twilight Zone” in 1982. Schwartz, the first A.D. on “Midnight Rider,” has not spoken publicly. According to a crew member who asked not to be identified, there were safety announcements but no formal safety meeting on the set of “Midnight Rider” before the crew went onto the trestle.

In a statement, DGA declined to comment specifically on the “Midnight Rider” case but deflected attention away from Miller and Schwartz, noting that responsibility for safety lies with employers. Miller’s production company, Unclaimed Freight, was the company of record on the film.

In addition to the Wayne County sheriff, a  number of agencies are conducting investigations, including the National Transportation Safety Board and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Federal Railroad Administration is following the other two federal agencies. Jones’ family has retained the firm of Harris Penn Lowry, based in Savannah and Atlanta, with Jeffrey Harris as lead attorney. The firm is conducting its own investigation into the accident.

Wayne County Sheriff John Carter last week declined to comment on the findings in their inquiry, other than to say that there were a few other witnesses remaining to be interviewed.

Mark Spaulding, a spokesman for the district attorney in the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, said that they have yet to receive the case from the sheriff. It is still unclear if the D.A. will wait until an investigation was completed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration before deciding if there is any criminal liability in the case, he said.

Michael D’Aquino, a spokesman for OSHA’s Atlanta office, said that in case of a serious injury or fatal incident, “the cases surrounding the incident are thoroughly investigated.”

“If violations are identified, facts to support the violations are documented and cited,” he said. “A closing conference is held with the employer to discuss the hazards, apparent violations and possible abatement measures.” OSHA may issue citations within six months of any violations.

An NTSB spokesman said its investigations typically take up to a year.


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  1. crew person says:

    This horrific experience was caused by the behavior of entitled, selfish, immature, non compliant self-centered greedy people. That was the root of the problem. I wish I had been there. I would have thrown a fit and it would never have happened. 34 years on sets next to the Director, DP and AD. And a title doesn’t make you smart and I learned that a long time ago. I hope they lock them up and leave them there for a long time.

  2. giantELF says:

    As a Location Professional I believe Mr. Baxter acted as best he could with the situation presented to him and this will come out in the investigation. I do take issue with the headline — ‘Midnight Rider’ Location Manager Lawyer Defends ‘Conduct’ This suggests that Mr. Baxter’s lawyer – and thereby Mr. Baxter himself – was defending the irresponsible conduct of the film company. This is the absolute opposite of the facts as known and report i the ensuing article. The lawyer was defending the conduct of his client Mr. Baxter during the incident. Which we understand to be informing the company they did not have permission and then not being present at a location that had no film permit.

    Myself and many other Location Mangers who have been following this story empathize with Mr. Bater as we understand the position in which he was placed. I have been asked numerous times – at least once a film – to go outside the bounds of the permit. Never with such callous disregard for safety as this but I have been asked. Most, if no not all, Location Managers have as well. Maybe it’s filming across the street from where you are supposed to be, or holding traffic without permission or lighting a fire in a fireplace without the proper special effects permit. (Yes you need a permit for this.) I have always said No and should the AD and Director choose to disregard the permit I let them know they are on their own and I will not be present.

    Mr. Baxter apparently did the same. It remains to be seen whether he took the extra step to alert the authorities or CSX in advance that this would be happening and what their response was. Not that he was required to do so but others might have – risking their employment in the process. This might account for the Producer’s response “It’s complicated.”

    Please change the provocative and inaccurate headline.

  3. keith currie says:

    Further complicating things is the fact that this occurred on a “prep-shoot” day and was called camera test. This to me has always been a grey area that unions should step on with all vigour. It allows production a certain latitude that having a full crew on a call sheet does not. Someone made a tragic misjudgement and we see the result. Let the investigation take its time, uncover the facts and lets work to make sure that something like this never happens again. Nothing should die to make something as ephemeral as a movie or TV program. The Romans killed things in the name of entertainment. We must not.

    • Andy says:

      Vis a vis this being a “prep day”, check out this comment taken from the IMDB message board page on “Midnight Rider.”

      Thanks for the thoughts. There were a lot of people affected by this tragedy.

      The sorrow, sadness and anger that is building worldwide over this situation is absolutely unprecedented. I have not seen such a potentially industry-changing event happen since the death of Brandon Lee 21 years ago next week.

      The reason they were filming on a working track is because the director was trying to “steal” a shot on the tracks without permission. Even thought they were denied permission to be on the tracks by the railroad – and were reminded of that several times by the location manager – the producer, director and 1st AD fully intended on getting that shot right from day one. It was on the call sheet for the day.

      The producer, director and 1st AD concealed the fact that they did not have permission to be there from the crew by telling the cast and crew, firstly that once the second train had passed they were good for the day (although in reality, it was a busy track with 10 to 14 trains passing down that track per day) and secondly by telling them that if a train came, they would have 60 seconds to clear the track (even though those three people knew full well that if a train came, they would have less than half that time to try to run towards the oncoming train to get off that narrow bridge in time.)

      The producer, director and 1st AD (all of whom make up and approve the call sheets) also concealed this shot from the local IATSE, DGA and SAG reps in the area by calling it a “camera test” day. This means they were concealing the fact that it was a full shoot day, with cast and a full crew. Plus, they also save money on hiring a first aid person for the day by calling it a “camera test” and pretending it is only a minimal crew of two or three when in fact it was a full crew.

      The industry is sickened by the negligence of these criminals.

      Sarah Jones loved what she did. No one should be expected to die doing what they love to do because of the negligence of others trying to add a ten-second scene to a movie that no one will ever care about any more.


  4. fatstreet says:

    I know I speak for many in the industry who’ve worked with Charlie Baxter for years and can vouch for his integrity, his character, and yes…his moral standing. I worked as an AD on the Hearts in Atlantis picture with him here in Virginia some years ago that involved active railroad work and I can attest first hand to his professionalism and dedication to providing the safest working environment possible.

    His attorney’s reference to his confidentiality agreement is in reference to his refusal to comment for the media on an ongoing multi-juirisdictional investigation, with which he’s cooperating fully.

    Given the degree of personal suffering for everyone involved, I wish those who’d like to second guess his conduct after the fact would take pause before casting their stones. Permission was denied, he communicated the railroad’s position to those responsible, objected in the strongest terms to their decision to proceed, and refused to participate. I’m sure the man will struggle mightily from here on out with whether or not that response was sufficient, but to call him out after the fact for not going to the railroad, law enforecement, or OSHA on an outcome that he tried to influence from within up until the end, is wholly unfair. Charlie is yet one more victim in this, a despairing witness to the arrogance of those above the line, and he deserves our support.

    • Don says:

      You are exactly on the mark “fatstreet”. I can remember as a Location Manager standing on a railroad track with a Director, Director of Photography, Production Designer, and a PRODUCER, on our second scout after the rail road company had denied our request, arguing with them as they all insisted how little time the shot would take, and how little crew would be on the track. If not for the Unit Production Manager who stepped up to the plate, and spoke firmly as he said, “if this discussion continues, I’m calling the Studio”, I’m sure the crew would have never known the truth as they would have been lead onto the tracks. From the day of that scout forward, the U.P.M. and myself were keep out of several meetings.

    • Geoff says:

      I fully respect your friendship with Mr. Baxter, and understand that in principle, he was opposed to the plan. That in itself shows a large measure of character. I’m just saying that although he has to be very careful about “what” he says, a well-crafted statement to the media, expressing his position, and personal emotion over the situation would go a long way toward negating the appearance of hiding behind lawyers and confidentiality clauses. He clearly understood right from wrong, but I sincerely wish he’d put his knowledge of train safety to the fullest use, and notified authorities.

    • Andy says:

      Right on. Anything diverting attention away from Randall Miller, Jay Sedrich and Hillary Schwartz is doing a disservice to the case of Sarah Jones (make no mistake, there are two trials in this case: one will be in a court of law and the other is ongoing right now). The location manager most likely communicated the refusal of permission to shoot on the tracks and moved on to work for future locations for the show. Remember, this was the first day of the show and obviously there were a lot of upcoming locations to secure. Kicking the blame from the filmmakers and AD to the location dept. is shameful.

  5. “Whistle posts in the United States were traditionally placed about one-quarter mile in advance of a road crossing.
    The signs in themselves varied in design from railroad to railroad. Some were marked with – – o – (two longs, one short, and another long) in a similar manner of sending the letter Q in Morse Code. This sequence is known as Rule 14(l} ” Rule # 14(l) – Approaching public crossings at grade, to be prolonged or repeated until crossing is reached unless otherwise provided”.[1] This rule is applied in almost all U.S. railroad operating rule books[2] even if the advance warning provided by the horn will be less than 15 seconds in duration. This signal is to be prolonged or repeated until the engine or train occupies the crossing; or, where multiple crossing are involved, until the last crossing is occupied. The same rule is practiced when approaching locations such as rail yards, where men may be working on the tracks, as well as bridges, tunnels and other points.” A simple rate time and distance solution would
    show the alleged “one minute warning” statement to be total bullshit. More like fifteen seconds.

  6. Geoff says:

    Mr. Baxter should understand that his moral obligations far exceed any confidentiality clause. The crew should have been met at the location site by local law enforcement, and CSX management to clarify the “complicated” issues Mr. Sedrish was unable to resolve on his own. I don’t think you can point the finger at any one person for the negligence involved; it seems there was a sizable group of people, who were “in the know” that made a determined decision and effort to circumvent established industry rules, as well as the law itself, and gambled with the lives of theirut this plan to steal a shot into acrew. For this, they should each face the harshest charges the law can offer.

    Conscientious objection on the part of Mr. Baxter was a niceu jesture, but did nothing toward saving Sarah Jones’ life. My inclination would be that the stiffest penalties be reseved for the people on location who put this plan into action with full knowledge that it was being done illegally.

    • Brad says:

      Agreed..using the confidentiality agreement will be a thin defense when Mr Baxter is on the stand..
      Prosecutor: Mr Baxter, you KNEW these producers were going to put this crew in a deadly situation where YOU were unable to gain permission so why did you NOT alert either the property owner, CSX, or the local authorities?
      Mr Baxter: I signed a confidentiality agreement.
      This would be laughable if it hadn’t resulted in an innocents death.

      • Geoff says:

        Yeah, Brad…Thor is correct. There’s really no chance a confidentiality agreement could shield anyone in court. When I speak of “moral obligation”, I have in mind a statement of fact…something akin to the way William Hurt managed to get part of his story through the carefully leaked email. The facts of the case are not going to change, and they will definitely be coming out in court in a very public way. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine that whatever agreements were signed have much legal standing regarding this specific event.

      • Thor Melsted says:

        That’s factually inaccurate, Brad. This article, and Mr. Baxter’s lawyer are NOT saying anything of the sort. This is simply a case of an NDA preventing Mr. Baxter from communicating with the media, it has no effect on his communication with investigators or law enforcement. The article even quotes his lawyers saying that Mr. Baxter is fully cooperating with investigators. You did read the article you’re commenting on, did you not?

  7. Jerry Clark says:

    I personally worked with Mr. Baxter during a stint with New Dominion Pictures and could never believe he would have secured a location without a warning to the producers of the potential dangers…if the A.D., or any of the producing staff, were aware of a potential train sighting, then it’s obvious the DID NOT have permission by CSX and WERE willing to gamble to get the shot off before an ensuing train. My guess is that Charlie secured the location with an agreement with the property owner but the PRODUCERS FAILED in getting the necessary permissions by CSX.

  8. Brian Dzyak says:

    The moment the words “IF a train comes” is the moment that everyone should have stopped and said, “What did you just say?!” The tracks are either locked up or not. It’s like putting a gun in an actor’s hand and saying “If there’s a live round in the chamber….” There was a complete breakdown in safety protocol and basic common sense that the AD Department should have called out immediately. Simply unbelievable and tragic.

    • Andy says:

      Brian: Saying “there was a complete breakdown in safety protocol…” gives the filmmakers and their lawyers an out because then they get to frame the incident as an accident, etc. There was no breakdown. If they were denied a permit to shoot on the tracks they engaged in criminal behavior because of the loss of life. Safety meetings, where the location manager was, where the railroad people were, etc will be obfuscation tactics used by the defense lawyers to shift blame.

      • Brian Dzyak says:

        I see what you’re getting at, but it’s a semantic argument. The breakdown in protocol began when someone (which specific individual or individuals?) made the conscious decision to attempt the shot after being denied permission to be on those tracks. That moment is where the breakdown began and, of course, that is a criminally negligent act. I’m not a lawyer, but it’s likely in the neighborhood of involuntary manslaughter as there was no direct intent to kill or harm, but because others were knowingly placed into a potentially dangerous situation, it points the finger directly at that initial decision and whoever made it.

        But that’s not really the end of it. It isn’t proper to place any blame on the crew (and cast) as all professionals understand that we always have to place our trust in the “adults” to have obtained the proper permits AND done their due diligence in ensuring absolute safety. However, clearly someone “at the top” made the choice to steal that shot and others at the top and slightly below the top made the choice to ignore the legal and contractual safety regulations. There was a breakdown at nearly every level, beginning with that initial decision and then out on location when the statement was made that another train “could” arrive. Right there and then, everything should have stopped because if there was even a shred of doubt about another train arriving, the First AD, at the very least, should have not allowed anyone anywhere near those tracks and immediately demanded to see the permit and talk to the CSX representatives.

  9. Green Eagle says:

    I’ve been signing confidentiality agreements on movies and TV for 25 years or so, and I don’t remember any of them that deny me the right to speak about criminal negligence on the part of the production. And even if they did, I’d hope a decent person would tell the truth and worry about the consequences later. I’ve worked on railroad movies too, and there were always railroad personnel there to make sure that their safety procedures are followed. The sad truth is that, as usual, these guys are probably never going to face any consequences- in a better world they’d all be serving long prison sentences.

    • Jeanne Boisineau says:

      Retread the article. Charlie Baxter is not refusing to speak with investigators and law enforcement. He is not speaking with the media. If any of us in film and TV production signs a confidentiality agreement, then speaking to media for any reason afterward – regardless of whether still in production or not – regarding the company we work/ed for, is breach of contract and actionable. You can bet Mr. Baxter has been reminded of that by the producers in this case. Nothing is served by Mr. Baxter speaking to the press. Being honest and forthcoming to investigators – as he’s been since Day One – is what is important.

    • Andy says:

      Green Eagle: They may avoid serving long prison sentences but without a doubt the career of Randall Miller, Hillary Schwartz, Jay Sedrish and Jody Savin are over in the movie business unless they are financing the project themselves. There are hundreds of us in the movie business who have been around a long time and we will never forget what they did. Remember, O.J. avoided prison for the killings of his wife and her boyfriend but he was shunned by the entertainment and sports communities in Los Angeles (Riviera CC booted him out after the trial and when he asked why, they responded: “blood and fiber”). So, whatever happens these “Midnight Rider” people will be shunned by those of who know better.

      • ghost of bob hope says:


        great call & reminder on that move by “Riv” C.C.; it should be noted too, that many folks in Ent (+ either R.C.C. or another country club) shunned/ booted him even before that double murder for repeat despicable behavior that even O.J.’s staunchest defenders cant deny: … as one famous ‘shunner’ said, “Juice is out– He’s a WOMAN BEATER.” Any truth to the gossip mentioned, that, on the dvd features of a previous work, this director brags about putting a child in harms way during a stolen shot? If so… WOW. This is such an awful situation; so many good peeps have been shit on by this one putz.

  10. John Kelly says:

    I’ve had hundreds of days on sets like these as a Grip, Key Grip, and camera operator. The simple fact of the loss of this beautiful young professional is that the most basic safety conventions weren’t followed. Where was the railroad man with the radio? Where was the key grip, or the AD who noticed that the railroad man wasn’t there? Who shoots in such a dangerous location with no security? The rank amateur who gave the direction, “if a train comes by, we’ll have a minute to get off the trestle” should be bound for the penitentiary. We don’t need a wide review of on-set safety, but a few of these shot-stealing posers just need to be locked up

  11. J.E. Vizzusi says:

    A copy of the Location report stating permission to work on the railroad tracks would clear them of negligence. A copy of the call sheet stating safety meeting and scene breakdowns would help as well.The code of silence by the on-set crew seems to be at work here. A grand jury inditement and state attorney depositions will clear up tight lips will sink ships syndrome.

  12. driver8 says:

    I was at Meddin Studios the day of the accident. Several people in the production office knew that the production company had been denied permission by CSX to shoot on the tracks. All of these people knew that the above-the-lines were going to steal the shot anyway. Mr. Baxter had informed the Director, Producer, Production Manager, and AD as well as others that the company did not have permission. He refused to participate in unethical and unprofessional actions and made that clear. That is why he didn’t go to the set….none of them should have been there. I’m sure he could never have imagined (none of us could have) that no standard safety precautions would be taken such as a safety meeting or on-set medic. Everyone who went knew had zero knowledge of train speeds and schedules because they were denied permission and not given information from CSX…the only entity that could have provided it. Why did they think there were 60 seconds to get off the tracks? Why did they think there would only be two trains? And for God’s sake, why did they put a crew on those tracks with gear and set dressing far enough onto the bridge that there would be no where to run without KNOWING it was safe? No…none of us, including Mr. Baxter ever imagined that these decisions would be made or I’m certain he or any of us would have called CSX, the police… anyone to stop it. He was the only guy who said “no” and refused to participate, He was the only one who made a stand against the decision to go that was made by his bosses. The whole thing is such a terrible, terrible tragedy. It should not have happened. If only…if only…if only….

    • J.E. Vizzusi says:

      May I suggest you contact the Georgia State Attorneys Office with your Statement.

    • Steveo says:

      You wouldn’t have to imagine much when the scene was spelled out in the script and on the one-liner, EXT train trestle Gregg wakes up on hospital bed on a train trestle and sees his brother on the other side of the river..

  13. Dropped the ball says:

    “The crew was warned by first assistant director Hillary Schwartz that a train might arrive during shooting, and if so, they would have a minute to clear the tracks and get off the bridge once they heard a whistle.” No location mamagers called to the set (ADs type the call sheet, UPM approves). This is so clearly an AD screw up on all accounts why is the location manager being thrown under the boss. It is very typical in features and tv for locations to be the easy department to blame for mistakes after the fact. The location manager tried and was denied permission and DGA members Hillary Schwartz & Jay Serdish sent them in anyway, both both should be tried and found guilty of homicide. Any and all DGA members on this production should be stripped of their guild status for saying nothing. If were Charlie Baxter I would have called the cops on my own producers and sent them the callsheet. He shares some culpability as well but nobody from his department was even there…

    • LM says:

      As a location manager myself, I’ve NEVER needed a 1st to put my name on a call sheet to show up at one of MY locations (and be there long before the 1st even gets there)..

      • Westie77 says:

        Yea that NY locations girl sounds like she manages home videos.

      • LM says:

        To nylocationsgirl
        I really don’t get your point here..your basically defending this ‘location manager is absolved from what happens when there is no permit as long he doesn’t go to set’ mentality..
        You’ve admitted to doing it yourself. When it comes to trespassing or putting lives in danger, YES, you CAN stop them with one phone call to the property owner. It’s location managers like you who I have to follow behind and try to ‘unburn’ locations.

      • NYlocationGirl says:

        Really? Even when you don’t have permission? Nice ethic. As a location manager MYSELF, I don’t go to locations where the production doesn’t have permission to go whether my name is on the call sheet or not. I make sure I communicate appropiately with my bosses and if they decide to make stupid decisions, I cannot stop them but that doesn’t mean I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and trespass or worse. I know great crew…AD’s, location managers, drivers, etc., etc. who know when it’s time to say no to irresponsible directors and producers. Too bad they weren’t working on this show.

      • H. says:

        Agreed. Locations should have figured this out and sounded an alarm, at the very least dropping a dime to CSX or the local authorities and most likely saving a life. Much of this incident seems rooted in a toxic combination of arrogance and ignorance. “Let’s just get this shot, we don’t need CSX, if a train comes, we can just clear the tracks.”

  14. M33 says:

    Nick Gant of Meddin Studios is the only one who addressed this issue when he accused CRX of “not being honest”, I wonder what will come out. If in fact CRX did not give permission, I would say Gant’s comments are pretty incriminating.

    • J.E. Vizzusi says:

      Exactly correct.. first statements are vital evidence in any investigation.

    • Brad says:

      You’ll notice Nick Gants name was not one of those included in the list of people informed by the loc manager that they did not have permission from CSX..He was probably under the impression they did, as evidenced by his eagerness to put himself in the crosshairs and defend something that did not exist..I cant think of another reason why he would do that when he would have to KNOW the truth would come out.

  15. Michael Anthony says:

    This us typical posturing by all involved when an accident occurs that will likely end up in the courts. No one us going to come out and admit anything at this point.
    CRX’s statements thus far seem to deflect total liability. Typical for a big transport company. But, I’ve seen other articles that say CRX us very accommodating.
    One has to wonder what is written down. CRX knows the legal laws due to accidents they have with autos, derailments, etc. If they truly turned them down, they should be able to provide a paper trail. If they do, well liability becomes clearer. If not, they’ll probably be on the hook.
    Don’t be surprised if a certain amount of liability is also assigned to the victims. Courts often assign a percentage to them. If you know something is dangerous and continue to do it, then you also become liable to an extant. Sad, but true. Its like a nurse who knows a surgeon is impaired or causing danger to a patient in surgery. If the nurse continues and says nothing to protect the patient and themselves, they become partly responsible.b

    • Andy says:

      Michael: the overwhelming likelihood of what happened was that the production asked for permission to shoot on the tracks and were denied. Using the ruse of getting permission to shoot on the surrounding land (perfectly aboveboard) gave them access to the tracks to “steal” a shot which those of us who have been around have seen countless times. However, the shots I’ve seen “stolen” never involve dangerous situations (trains, planes, cars, et al). CRX should deflect liability if they indeed denied permission. Unfortunately, for them, lawyers will go after those with the deepest pocketbooks.

    • H. says:

      To clarify, the railroad company is CSX, a modern corporate name for the old Chessie System Railroad. CSX denies access or controls access to its rails on a regular basis. Construction crews, survey crews, utilities, etc. are examples. In this case you need to keep in mind it involved a main line and a trestle with not only high traffic volume, but stringent safety requirements by not only CSX in- house rules, but also OSHA and the Federal Railroad Administration rules-especially for being on the trestle. The organization and safety logistics as well as the economic impact (slowing or altering shipments worth millions) for CSX would have been considerable and probably unrealistic. This fact, along with the sheer danger of shooting on active tracks and a trestle in general should have been readily apparent to any requestor, especially a film company performing what amounts to a grossly non-essential action for CSX.

      I’m troubled by the comment that a certain amount of liability could be assigned to the victims as this reflects what I think is a misunderstanding of the hierarchy of a film set. There is no question who is in charge on a film set, who gives the orders and who is the ultimate supervisor. I recently worked with the Assistant Director mentioned in this article and I’m stunned she would be quoted as having stated to the crew, “a train might arrive during shooting, and if so, you will have a minute to clear the tracks and get off the bridge once you hear a whistle.” If true, this paints a picture of a filming situation so divorced from reality, so stupid and outrageous that it defies explanation. But Sarah Jones was ordered, directed and supervised into a high-risk environment by people she trusted within a very well established film set hierarchy where moving slow, expressing concern or saying no is not an option. Sarah was doing her job as a camera assistant. Her job (unlike the nurse example) did not require her to be privy to production arrangements or lack thereof with CSX, nor did it require her to know CSX safety rules, train schedules or the speeds of various types of trains on main line tracks. It did not require her to know CSX, OSHA or FRA safety rules and regulations for working on a trestle. I hope the Georgia District Attorney presented with this case does her job and charges to the full extent of the law those responsible for this gross criminal misconduct.

      • Department Head says:

        I agree with your post and can’t wait to hear the explanations the department heads give explaining why they took their crews on to the trestle. They are not as culpable as others, but only a complete idiot would take their crew up on that trestle, even if they had sixty seconds to try and get to safety. Poor Sarah and the others were the victims of arrogance and cowardice by many people. One of the dept. heads has been eliciting sympathy for himself on a blog run by a member of his local. It’s too bad he didn’t have the guts to say no.

      • Alexander says:

        Perfectly expressed H. Peace.

  16. Carol Ann says:

    Please help First Responders ask federal administrations to consider adding secondary containment to rail tank cars used to transport chlorine gas, providing lifesaving safety to First Responders and the public they serve. See First Responders Comments at PETITION C KIT.

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