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Sarah Jones’ Death Highlights Dangers Crew Members Face on Set

Sarah Jones' Death Highlights Dangers Crew Members Face on Set

In a painful reminder of the dangers crew members can encounter during production, Sarah Elizabeth Jones lost her life last week when she was struck and killed by a train while working as a second camera assistant on the new Greg Allman biopic “Midnight Rider.” Her death is now serving as a lightning rod for the industry, which is using the tragedy to draw attention
to the occasionally dangerous role of the crew — and the risks filmmakers are often willing to go to in order to get the shot. The investigation into the accident is underway, but whatever the
eventual findings, the tragedy is a reminder of the risks that crew members take
every day.

Jones, 27, was killed after trying to remove a bed from the
tracks. She was working as part of a 20-person crew from
Savannah, GA-based Meddin Studios. Directed by Randall Miller, “Midnight Rider” stars William Hurt, Tyson Ritter, Wyatt Russell and
Eliza Dushku. The film is being distributed by Open Road Films in the
U.S. Filming this week was temporarily halt in the wake of the tragedy.

Jones lived in Atlanta, Georgia, where she worked as a camera assistant
on many projects. According to her obituary, she died “doing the job she

Jones began her film career while interning on the set of “Army Wives” and then discovered a passion for cinematography. She worked as a crew member of “The Vampire Diaries” and many of her former colleagues mourned her death via social media. Jones was a member of the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600). In a statement, The International Cinematographers Guild
said it was “shocked and saddened” by Jones’ death and described her as “a well-respected camera assistant, much loved by those who worked with her.

There’s an online petition
to add Jones to the Academy Award Memorial tribute on Sunday night.
Over 4,000 people have already signed the petition, which reads: “Only
27 years old, Sarah’s promising life was cut short when she was
struck by a train while working on a dangerous set. 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.”

Though he didn’t know Jones, video assist technical Chris Murphy created the online “Sarah Jones Oscar” campaign and shared it via Facebook. “Sarah could have been any one of us,” he told Deadline. “We’ve all been in that situation before in our thirst to accomplish our jobs and help directors get their visions accomplished.”

Now the film and television industry is honoring Jones with “Slates for Sarah,” a campaign to post memorial tributes to her on clapboard slates from film and TV crews around the world. The crews are posted photos of the tributes on the Facebook page Slates for Sarah,
which has over 13,000 followers. So far tributes have been sent from TV shows including “Person of Interest,” “Revenge,” “About a Boy,” “The Goldbergs,” “Revolution,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Devious Maids,” “New Girl,” “Veep,” “The Mentalist” and “Drop Dead Diva” and many more. Below are just a few of the many images.

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What a horrible tragedy my thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends , I’m so sorry


So tragic :(

thomas rodriguez

I too the industry and is very sad. I personality did.not.know sara jones heart goes out to her family. Very tough to loose someone. Its sad how.production.vo. vit votners to save $ . Mo.ey isnt every thing. What good.old days when movies took time and money to.make. how the business has changed. This vould.have easy been prevented.

Wayne perrin

How in the he'll do you get hit by a train nowadays this sounds fishy.


So sorry to hear of the lose of a great person as Sarah. I know the lose and I am praying for her family.

Shirley Spohrer

My heart is with Sarah's family for their loss. It is so challenging to face the loss of one so young. Those in the film making art bring so much joy and such a perspective to life. Whether it be a documentary or fiction… our lives are changed forever through the efforts of those involved in the art. Yours is not a path without great heartbreak, but know there are many of us at your side as you move through this time.

Harry Bateman

My heart felt condolences go out to Sarah Jone's family for a great loss.And to all that knew and worked with her.For a life cut short as it's just beginning is a tremendous tradgety.God speed,and God bless.Very sad.

Cyndi B

while sad for the loss of this young woman, one must point out that she unlike many dies doing what she loved. and unlike many other deaths there is a certain responsibility she herself must carry to the grave. my heart goes to her family, but I would not condemn an industry for this death. this is a career chosen, and unlike many others, actors, stunt people production crews know first hand sometimes shit goes wrong. kinda like life period.


Someone should write a screenplay for "The Making of Midnight Rider".
Especially now, with big Business saying: 'Let's be rid of Unions'.

Chris J

As for Sarah, she is a human capable of making her own decisions. How she could be struck by a train regardless of any other person or permit, is beyond me. It's tragic for sure, but I'm not sure the blame rests anywhere else but on her shoulders.

Chris J

Wow, the responses to Carl Spitter are horrible. You people are actually worse than him. Cursing at him, calling him names, saying things like you hope he doesn't work another day in his life, I honestly hope the horrible things you say to people come back to you.


I can't believe some of the heartless responses I've read in regards to this loss of life. I'm so sorry for the loss of such a young and talented individual. Always let those around you know how much you love and appreciate them because in a blink of an eye they could be gone. Make every moment count. Carl if you continue on this path of hate your life will be meaningless.
Your inner pain is so evident. Don't destroy yourself! Seek help.

Dan J.

Midnight Rider:
1. No permit to be on the tracks, much less the trestle.
2. No set medic.
3. No establishment of adequate warning for oncoming trains.

Producer/Director: Randall Miller
Unit Production Manager: Jay Sedris
First Assistant Director: Hillary Schwartz

Bradley " Wiszard " Grasser

Carl Spitter , You are a piece crap and to think that she is responsible for this tragedy and that you would defend the people responsible for breaking the law show what a useless piece of S#$%^** you are .
I bet your family is proud to have you as a relative . If you were my brother I'D disown you . I bet your Mom & Dad hope you will someday become a human being instead of a piece of S##$%^&*( t

Bradley " Wiszard " Grasser

The words " Love Your Job " in the film industry is a passion when in the craft you can't explain well enough for others to understand we thrive on 6-7 day work weeks 10 -18 hour days , physicality and Mentality draining . We at times expect our higher ups to look out for our safety and well they should , but we need to look out for our selves and our Brothers & Sisters

Jake L

Wow, thoughts and prayers to Sarah's family. Hard to put blame on anyone; best we can do is learn from it. I truly hope that Carl Spitter never works a day again in his life.


you know this is a very sad tragedy and it might have been preventable, but to blame the victim is totally wrong on so many levels. so, why don't you show some damn respect. but, then again i guess it is easier to blame the victim then blame the whole industry. so, l guess we will continue to just blame people like sarah and then while we are at it lets blame actors like brandon lee, vic marrow and others who have died on set doing what they loved. then we could really be assholes and say that every stuntman or woman who has died on set is to blame for their deaths as well.


If I were a lawyer I'd defend these producers to the death! The crew sucks, obviously. Who the hell lets one of their own members get killed? Selfish idiots.


@carl spitter, if I want to hear an arsehole speak, I'll fart. So shut the f*** up. This is so unprofessional of you to make such comments on the passing of someone. Makes me think that you must be a producer or something like that.

Carl Spitter

If she wasn't getting paid to do it would she still love it? Just saying, these pro crew types are sketchy at best.

Pedro Bürgerbräu

Her death had an explanation: the delirium of a satisfied talent. That was the explanation of friends and family, also found on her obituary. But there is a much more exact explanation; Sarah eluded herself; she saw a gesture of love where there was only an alteration of ingenue vanity. And after having got everything she wanted, which was her absolute love for filmmaking, it escaped from her, since offering her heart was the only thing supposed.


I worked with Sarah in the camera department on a pilot in Atlanta. She was young but experienced and a member of local 600, having a background both in TV and Film. I doubt seriously she would have done anything to knowingly put herself in a dangerous situation. I am heartened by the outreach of the film family to make her loss of life public and promote change. I am also pissed that production didn't think enough of the safety of the crew to put them out of harms way. Sarah had an amazing personality and was a consummate professional. Unfortunately she trusted too much that others would have the same professionalism in keeping them safe.


This tragedy was preventable. An early report in the trades and then local news reported that the filmmakers had a permit from the landowner of the adjoining property – a paper company, but not CSX, the railroad. CSX stated they did not permit. CSX stated "they were aware there was filming in the vicinity." Other accounts include the investigating sheriff who observed that people from around there knew there were sometimes as many as 1o other trains a day on that track.

The filmmakers had put a bed on a railroad trestle to recreate a dream sequence. Thus the flying debris was the bed placed on the trestle. That trestle spans one of the largest water basins in the south. is) assuming that the two trains that made daily stops at a paper mill, were the only ones on the track. This is likely the result of not having permission from CSX. In post 911 America it is difficult to find train schedules – unless of course, you are a user of the tracks. Somehow the reporting, which was based on rewrites of the original morphed into a narrative that the railroad had granted permission. Anyone who has ever filmed on or around railroad tracks knows how complex permission/permit is to get. The exceedingly cautious environment demanded by the railroads is non-negotiable. But, once they have signed on – they come with their safety people, spotters – and in a situation like this derailers. Unfortunately lower budget films don't have the time, and often the money to manage a permit from the railroad.

Below is a link to a google aerial map of the trestle. There were no spotters to warn the crew – which might have been a way to mitigate the risk of working on tracks without a permit. So judge for yourself – should any production put its crew in a situation as lethal as this?


Its the First AD and Key Grips jobs to make the set safe. And its on the producers to follow their call. There are way too many ADs/Key Grips/Producers/Crew members who will say, "well, lets just give it a try."

Unfortunately, too many crew members will put themselves in harms way over…a shot. Nothing.

Again, could have been a freak accident. I'm not sure. But folks HAVE to wake up.


I find "Sarah Jones death" strikingly low-key given the impact of the story to those who haven't heard it. How about, "Assistant Director dies on-set"? Or is that too-bad of publicity for the biz?

CJ Harris

Did the crew have permits or were they shooting run and gun style? If they had permits it should not have been dangerous. Was the director overzealous in getting "the shot?" Who's job is it to make sure the crew is safe? The AD? The Production Manager? The City? Lots of questions. A terrible tragedy.


What a tragedy. Since the beginning, film has often been a dangerous endeavor. This is so tragic, as she was only 27 and clearly loved film. My love goes out to her family.

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