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Department of Labor Slams 'Midnight Rider' Production for Violations - But Only $75K?

Photo of Paula Bernstein By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire August 14, 2014 at 6:18PM

The production company of "Midnight Rider" didn't take adequate safety measures to protect crew members.
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Sarah Jones
(Source: South Carolina Film Council on Facebook) Sarah Jones

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the production company behind "Midnight Rider" for safety violations. Proposed penalties total $74,900, a meager amount considering the loss of life involved.

Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed and eight other workers were injured while trying to escape an oncoming freight train during the filming of a scene on the tracks of a train trestle in George on Feb. 20 for the biopic based on the life of musician Gregg Allman.

Film Allman LLC of Pasadena, California, was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful and one serious safety violation for exposing employees to struck-by and fall hazards.

READ MORE: Sarah Jones' Death Highlights Dangers Crew Members Face on Set

Sarah Jones 'Midnight Rider"
Sarah Jones

"Employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers' health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle."

The incident occurred during the filming of a scene on the tracks of the Doctortown train trestle in Georgia that spans the Altamaha River. While the crew was filming on the tracks of a train trestle in Georgia, a CSX Corp. train traveling on the tracks headed toward them. Crew members immediately started exiting the tracks, trying to remove set pieces and get off the trestle. But, unable to outrun the oncoming train, Jones was killed and eight other crew members were injured by debris when the train hit a hospital bed being used as a set piece.

"Their failure to develop a safety plan to prevent such hazards, including obtaining permission from the rail owner to use the tracks for filming, led to the death of one crew member and injuries to eight other employees," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's Regional Administrator for the Southeast.

A willful citation was issued for the employer's failure to provide safety measures to protect employees from moving trains. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The serious citation was issued for exposing workers to fall hazards while working on a train trestle that was not equipped with safety guardrails or other fall protection measures. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. Read the full statement from OSHA here.

This article is related to: Midnight Rider, Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story, Sarah Jones