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‘Midnight Rider’: Judge’s Decision Over Health and Safety Fines Will Not Be Reviewed

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission will not review an administrative law judge’s decision upholding nearly $75,000 in fines against the “Midnight Rider” filmmakers for safety violations stemming from the Feb. 20, 2014, train accident that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones and injured eight others.

The decision to not review the case means that Film Allman, the production company set up by director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin to make the movie, can challenge the health and safety citations in a federal appellate court. Their attorney, Ed Garland, did not immediately return a request for comment on whether they planned to appeal.

In September, administrative law judge Sharon Calhoun upheld $74,600 in OSHA safety penalties, including “willful” safety violations, writing that the accident was “entirely preventable.”

Film Allman then petitioned the commission to review Calhoun’s decision, but they declined, and it was made final on Oct. 30.

The movie had been shooting on a train trestle near Jesup, Ga., when a train came unexpectedly, forcing cast and crew to flee. In August, 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the failure of the production to obtain permission to be on the tracks. Two citations were issued: A “willful” violation for the employer’s failure to provide safety measures to protect employees from moving trains, and a “serious” citation for exposing workers to fall hazards while working on a train trestle that was not equipped with safety guardrails or other fall protection measures.

Film Allman’s attorneys argue that the filmmakers believed that only two trains would go by on the tracks on the afternoon of the filming, and once that happened, it would be safe to shoot on the tracks “because no additional trains would come by.”

“While Film Allman showed a lack of diligence in filming on the tracks on February 20, Film Allman was not intentionally exposing its employees to danger,” the company’s attorneys wrote. “Had Film Allman known the ‘two trains’ information was unconfirmed and unreliable, it would not have filmed on the tracks that afternoon.”

The filmmakers did not have permission from CSX Corp. to be on the tracks, but the production did have the okay from Rayonier Performance Fibers to be on its property surrounding the tracks.

News of the commission’s decision to decline review was first reported by Deadline.

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