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Crew Member’s Death Prompts Investigation Into ‘Midnight Rider;’ Production Suspended

Crew Member's Death Prompts Investigation Into 'Midnight Rider;' Production Suspended

Following the death of second camera assistant Sarah Jones during production of the new Greg Allman biopic “Midnight Rider,” the production’s future is now in question. As we previously reported, filming on the production was temporarily halted after Jones’ death. Now Variety reports that cast members are being released and told that they will be called back at a future date — though the future of the troubled production remains in question given the questions swirling around Jones’ death.

There are also potential criminal ramifications as troubling details about the production emerge. For instance,
there wasn’t a full tech scout on hand, nor was there a set medic or
railroad safety officer when Jones was killed and 7 people were
seriously injured, according to local Savannah, GA news station WTOC.

Detectives interviewed crew members, who also received grief counseling set up by union representatives. Jones was killed by a train while shooting a dream sequence on a railroad trestle with a hospital bed on live train tracks. Variety reports that the film’s star William Hurt, director Randall Miller and the production’s still photographer tried their best to remove the bed, but were unable to do so in time to spare Jones’ life.

It’s unclear whether the film crew had permission from the railroad
operator to film on the tracks. Seven other crew members were treated at
a hospital for injuries they sustained on the 110-year-old trestle
above the Altamaha River in Savannah, Georgia.

Read More: Sarah Jones’ Death Highlights Dangers Crew Members Face on Set

International Cinematographers Guild, of which Jones was a member, is
working with government agencies to investigate Jones’ death and the
circumstances around it, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Steven Poster, president of the International Cinematographers Guild
(Local 600) said that union officials went to the accident site
immediately after learning of the tragedy and that the union was
cooperating with government investigations by the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board as
well as the local sheriff’s office.

The crew was reportedly authorized to shoot in the area near the train tracks, but it’s unclear whether they were actually permitted to film on the train tracks. A new incident report out of Wayne County shows the producers were denied permission to be on the tracks, according to a local Savannah, GA news station WTOC report. Local authorities have impounded a camera, which was rolling during the accident.

Sadly, this is far from the first time that an on-set accident led to a crew member’s death. Wikipedia highlights a gruesome list of injuries and deaths during past productions, including the death of actor Vic Morrow and two children on the set of “The Twilight Zone: The Movie” in 1983 and Brandon Lee, who was accidentally killed on the set of “The Crow” in 1994.

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Condolences to her family, friends, and loved ones.

An avoidable tragedy. No shot is worth anyone, or any animal, getting hurt or killed.

Please let her family grieve. Yet also allow this to be an opportunity to openly discuss working conditions on modern sets. Too many of us, union and non-union, know that mistakes are made when teams are pushed too hard, too long, and too fast. Usually in the vain attempt to save money.

I will speculate that Sarah Jones and her crew were unnecessarily put in harm's way after working many long hours, days, and possibly weeks on end without adequate rest. Judgments were impaired.

Let us not forget all cast and crew hurt or killed while filming. Including Brent Hershman, an assistant cameraman who was killed after falling asleep behind the wheel after working a 19 hour day. And the ensuing "Brent's Law" and the effort to cap work days at 12 hours.

Please view Haskell Wexler's important documentary: Who Needs Sleep?
Visit his site 12 on 12 off website.

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