Midnight Rider (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Midnight Rider
Directed by Randall Miller
Produced by
  • Randall Miller
  • Jody Savin
Screenplay by
  • Randall Miller
  • Jody Savin
Based on My Cross to Bear 
by Gregg Allman
Cinematography Mike Ozier
  • Film Allman LLC
  • Unclaimed Freight Productions
Distributed by Open Road Films
Country United States
Language English

Midnight Rider, also known as Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story,[1] is a currently suspended American biographical drama film. Director Randall Miller co-wrote the screenplay with Jody Savin, based on the autobiography My Cross to Bear by the singer Gregg Allman.[2] Miller and Savin were the producers. The film was to star William Hurt, Tyson Ritter, Zoey Deutch, Eliza Dushku and Wyatt Russell.

On February 20, 2014, while shooting a scene on an active railroad trestle bridge, high over the Altamaha River in Wayne County, Georgia, second camera assistant Sarah Jones was struck and killed by a passing CSX freight train, and seven others were injured.[3][4] Production was suspended the following week[5] and multiple investigations into the incident are currently under way. Miller, Savin, executive producer Jay Sedrish, and first assistant director Hillary Schwartz were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass[6] as well as being cited by OSHA for "serious" and "willfull" safety violations.[7][8]

Film Allman LLC, referenced in multiple lawsuits, is the production company created by Randall Miller and Jody Savin in the state of Georgia, specifically for the production of Midnight Rider. Unclaimed Freight Productions is Miller and Savin's parent California production company.[9]



On May 18, 2013 it was announced that Open Road Films, Randall Miller and Jody Savin planned to film a biopic based on the autobiography by Gregg Allman, My Cross To Bear. Miller was announced as the director and co-writer of the screenplay with Savin.

When Open Road Films was announced as the US distribution partner[2] this was a substantial boost to the independent production as the distributor is owned by AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas and thus represents the ability to directly distribute to approximately 31% of the nation's theaters.[17] Open Road Films Tom Ortenberg stated, “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this movie. Gregg Allman’s story is fascinating and we are looking forward to working with Randall, Jody and Gregg to bring this project to theaters.” [18] Miller and Savin would produce, along with their business partner Brad Rosenberger, and work closely with Gregg Allman and his manager Michael Lehman, who would serve as executive producers.[19]

The name of the film was announced as Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story on November 1, 2013,[1] and was followed with promotional artwork, a Facebook page, and casting calls using that title.[20]

Open Road Films was reported to be close to announcing its plans to pull out of the film production before the freight train fatally struck Sarah Jones on the railroad trestle in Doctortown, Georgia. Open Road Films stated that it still plans to release the picture in the US but does not have a release date set.[21]

The first, and only, day of filming was halted when a freight train collided with the crew as they were filming a scene on a CSX railroad trestle, resulting in the death of Jones and multiple injuries to other crew members. Producers had intended to continue filming immediately following the tragedy, evidenced by their request for new film permits from the city of Savannah,[22] however on February 26, 2014, Film Allman, LLC announced that the filming was on hold due to the death of Jones and the injuries to crew members.[5]

Randall Miller hired public relations strategist Matthew Hiltzik, of Hiltzik Strategies, on February 27, to address the mounting negative press for the production.[23]

On April 14, 2014 it became known that Miller and Savin were intending to restart filming in June.[24] However, the crew protests,[25] William Hurt's separation from project,[11] Allman's lawsuit,[26] and New York Marine's refusal to pay an insurance claim, and denial of ongoing insurance, further delayed the production.[27]

On August 12, 2014 Film Allman LLC filed a lawsuit against New York Marine Insurance in which the plaintifs contend that if they do not receive the 1.6 million dollar insurance payout for the interruption caused by the fatal train collision during filming, they would be unable to continue with the film production. The lawsuit also revealed that they had rewritten the film script, and submitted it to the insurance carrier, to be about 1970's rock music in general, and not specifically about Gregg Allman. This revelation, along with Gregg Allman's undisclosed out of court settlement with Miller and Savin's Film Allman LLC, has raised substantial questions as to whether the production would still be considered a "Gregg Allman biopic", based on his autobiography, if they were able to attempt to restart filming.[27] The insurance policy has a clear stipulation that the insured must adhere to all safety standards and laws to prevent loss. However, Film Allman LLC has been cited by OSHA for putting their crew at risk both for falls from the trestle, a "serious citation", as well as in danger of being struck by a train, a "willful citation", in addition to criminal indictments of the three managing producers and 1st AD for criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter.[6][7]

Pre-production Filming[edit]

On February 20, 2014 the film crew was transported an hour from Meddin Studios to a remote location for what was stated to be a "camera test". The location they had permission to be on was on property secured by fencing and owned by Rayonier for mill operations. Running through this property was CSX railroad property, which included the historic Doctortown railroad trestle in Wayne County. CSX claims the production asked for permission twice to use their property and was denied both times in writing.[28] Sergeant Ben Robertson wrote in the incident report, "In my presence, Mr. Sedrish was asked by an employee of CSX if he had permission to be on the trestle or tracks and Mr. Sedrish replied, ‘That’s complicated.’".[29] Under the direction of producer/director Randall Miller, the crew prepared and started filming a dream sequence involving William Hurt as Allman on a heavy metal hospital bed on this live railroad trestle, high above the Altamaha River. The cast and crew were assured it was safe to be on the railroad trestle. Despite the fact that officially shooting of the film was scheduled to begin the following Monday, February 24, in and around Savannah, and that February 20 had been referred to as a "camera test", it seems the producers intended to shoot a substantial scene from the film without the full crew.[30]

Train collision at the Doctortown railroad trestle[edit]

On February 20, 2014, director Miller, the film crew, and cast members William Hurt and Wyatt Russell were setting up for filming a dream sequence on a CSX mainline railroad trestle in Doctortown, Georgia, when a train unexpectedly crossed the bridge and struck and killed second camera assistant Sarah Jones.[3][31][32][33] William Hurt was able to evade the oncoming train before it hit the heavy, metal hospital bed he was on and shattered it, creating flying debris. Several other crew members were injured and were taken to hospital.[30] The railroad trestle that the film crew was on is a historic bridge crossing the Altamaha River in Wayne County, Georgia at the location of the civil war Battle of Altamaha Bridge. According to the NTSB preliminary report the train was traveling at 58 mph and the speed limit for this section of track was 70 mph.[34] On February 21, sheriff's deputies identified the deceased as Sarah Elizabeth Jones, and confirmed that seven others were injured in the incident.[4] Executive Producer Nick Gant, creative director and principal of Meddin Studios, denied any wrongdoing or negligence in the incident, and told Variety that the crew was extremely qualified, and blamed the railway company for the mishap.[35] On February 24, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office released an incident report, in which it was stated that the production company had previously been denied permission by CSX to film on the train trestle.[29] The investigation was later expanded to include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, treating Jones' death as a negligent homicide.[36][37]

Attempts to Restart Filming[edit]

On April 14, 2014 it was reported that director/producer Randall Miller was planning to resume filming in Los Angeles in June 2014.[24]

On April 17 the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said they were notified by Unclaimed Freight Productions that they would begin pre-production "in a couple weeks", but that the company "did not ask for permission and was not granted permission to restart production". IATSE also stated, "As uncomfortable as this is, we cannot prevent them from starting up again. Whether or not they can get people to work for them is a decision that those people will have to make for themselves." [38]

In response to Miller and Savin's decision to restart filming, film crews that had remained largely silent on the details of pending criminal investigations, mounted a very vocal protest against the production company and asked Gregg Allman, Open Road Films, William Hurt and other actors to withdraw their support for the film. The greatest concern was that despite what seemed to be clear negligence by the production company, resulting in serious injuries and a death, there was not a federal, state or union entity that could prevent them from resuming the film production. A Facebook group of crew members voicing opposition had grown to more than 10,800 members by April 23 when Hurt announced he was pulling out of the film.[25][39]

Hurt, who was scripted to be lying on the metal bed in the scene, stated in an email to a friend that he had twice been assured by the production crew that the bridge scene was safe to film.[11] In a personal letter Allman released to the press on April 25, he asked the producers not to proceed with the film writing: “Your desires as a filmmaker should not outweigh your obligations as a human being, I am asking you to do the right thing and to set aside your attempts to resume the production out of respect for Sarah, her family and the loss that all of us feel so deeply.”[40] Allman later filed a civil suit against Miller and Savin in an attempt to halt the film. Open Road Films has yet to withdraw their support for the film.

On August 12, producers again expressed their intention to restart production on the film as Miller and Savin filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against insurance company New York Marine, which asked for a jury trial to decide the case. However, in details of the lawsuit they contend they can not restart the film without the proceeds of their insurance claim.[27]

On October 2, it was revealed that Randall Miller was in pre-production for a film called Slick Rock Trail and working with casting director Rick Pagano of Pagano/Manwiller Casting. Pagano had also worked with Miller as casting director on Midnight Rider, CBGB, Nobel Son and Bottle Shock. It seems the film has similarities to the Midnight Rider script including borrowing a line from Gregg Allman's book which is also a common quote of the origin story of the Allman Brothers band. In the quote Allman refers to a band with two drummers as a potential train wreck. This use of Allman material brings into question what kind of settlement was reached in the lawsuit between Allman and Miller over the film rights to his story and book.[41] It is unclear at this time if the Slick Rock Trail script is the same one Miller presented, as a rewrite of Midnight Rider, to New York Marine Insurance. That script was mentioned in the lawsuit where Miller sued his insurance company, which has refused to pay due to the criminal activity and OSHA violations that led to the tragedy and film shutdown.

Tributes and Film Safety Movement[edit]

Slates for Sarah[edit]

Several film crews began posting slates in tribute to Sarah Jones, starting with the crew of the television show "Drop Dead Diva" on February 21, 2014, and friends began to post tributes to her life and positive spirit.[42] On February 24, 2014 the Facebook page 'Slates for Sarah'[43] was created to bring these tributes together in one place. With the statement "Sarah Elizabeth Jones, friend and family to so many, made every day awesome. Show your slate love here along with all the good stories of her life" the page exploded with photographs of crew slates from around the world.[44] In less than 24 hours 'Slates for Sarah' grew to 9,400 likes and included slates from The Vampire Diaries, Glee (TV series), Parks and Recreation, Castle (TV series), Hawaii Five-O, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Criminal Minds, Halt and Catch Fire (TV series), Elementary (TV series) , Devious Maids, Justified (TV series), The Crazy Ones, NCIS (TV series), and Rectify.[45] In less than a week the page grew to 63,000 likes and was supportive of the separate successful initiatives to have Jones recognized during the live Oscar telecast[46] and for Oscar winners to wear ribbons on stage in her memory.[47][48]

Sarah Jones Memorium at 2014 Academy Awards[edit]

An online petition campaign to include Jones in the "In Memoriam" segment of the 86th Academy Awards ceremony scheduled for March 2, 2014[49] achieved more than 55,000 signatures, and was submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[49][50][51] The campaign succeeded with Jones being acknowledged in a graphic shown to the television audience after Bette Midler sang Wind Beneath My Wings as part of the "In Memoriam" reel segment, and also her inclusion in the Academy's gallery tribute on its website.[52] As well six Oscar winners wore "Ribbon's for Sarah" on stage during their acceptance speeches.[48]

Location Manager Awards Tribute[edit]

Jones was remembered by producer Harry Bring during the inaugural Locations Manager Awards March 29, 2014.[53]

Notable Film Industry Statements[edit]

While the tributes to Jones were of a very personal nature, they also became part of a larger industry wide call to address pervasive safety issues with many notable representatives of the film industry making statements. Richard Crudo, President of the American Society of Cinematographers said as part of a larger statement, "As directors of photography, we have always been responsible for the safety of our crews, and it is incumbent upon us to find ways to be more decent and caring not only to them, but also to everyone we know,” he said “It won’t always be easy; at times, it will run counter to initial impulses. But if our example proves worthy, it might make a start toward curing the spiritual sickness I have described. It would also stand as the most profound tribute any of us could offer to the memory of Sarah Jones." [54][55][56] Academy Award winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler said, "The Sarah Jones tragedy brings the public’s attention to something that has been going on for a number of years, Sarah’s father has said -- and I agree with him -- that the only way her death will not be in vain is if we pay serious attention to safety. We are making entertainment and there’s no reason to risk our lives and our health to get a shot."[53]

A Pledge to Sarah and Set Safety smartphone app's[edit]

A group of film industry veterans formed the group 'A Pledge to Sarah'[57] to encourage film professionals to sign a pledge to dedicate themselves to promoting safe sets.[58] The group also led a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to develop a smartphone safety app to help address on set safety issues. The funding goal was exceeded in just 3 1/2 days.[59] On October 3 the app "Set Safety" was released for android users,[60][61] and on October 14 it was released for the Apple iOS platform.[62]

The International Cinematographers Guild as well released a smartphone app "ICG Safety", on both android and iOS platfotms, to similarly address safety issues on set.[63]

TV show dedications/SOC Tribute/Vigils[edit]

The episode "Still" from Season 4 of The Walking Dead, the episode "No Exit" from season 5 of The Vampire Diaries, and the episode "Cheers and Jeers" from season 6 of Drop Dead Diva were dedicated to Jones.[64] A number of other tributes and memorials were held, including those hosted by Society of Operating Cameramen, the International Cinematographers Guild, and several unions.[65][66][67][68]

In addition to the memorial held in Jones' hometown of Columbia, SC, a vigil was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a memorial in Atlanta, Georgia, where around 700 gathered to both remember how Jones lived and make sure her memory inspires change in the film industry.[69][70] As well as a candle light vigil was held in Los Angeles where well over 500 friends and participants marched from the Directors Guild of America headquarters to the national offices of the International Cinematographers Guild on Sunset Boulevard for a memorial service attended by many distinguished members of the film community.[71]

The Sarah Jones Film Foundation[edit]

While 'Slates for Sarah' initially focused on celebrating the life of Jones it quickly became as well a rallying cry to address the many long standing safety problems on film and Television sets. Jones' parents have said they will use the banner 'Safety for Sarah'[72] to help keep this movement going forward.[73][74] In September Jones' family announced the organization 'The Sarah Jones Film Foundation' would be the umbrella organization for film scholarship programs; Safety for Sarah, set safety efforts; and 'Slates for Sarah'.[75]

Creative Arts Emmys Memorium[edit]

Jones was also remembered during the 'In Memoriam' segment of the Creative Arts Emmys on August 16, 2014.[76]

Walk-a-thon in Honor of Sarah and Set Safety[edit]

Walk-a-thons took place on Sunday October 5, 2014 in Atlanta, GA, Santa Monica, CA and Central Park in New York City, to remember Jones and raise money for set safety. The Atlanta walk was led by Jones' family as well as cast and crew members of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, including writer/EP Julie Plec and TVD star Paul Wesley. As a fund raiser for The Sarah Jones Film Foundation the walks had raised $35,000 as of October 6.[60][75][77][78][79]

Criminal Indictments and Lawsuits[edit]

Criminal Indictments[edit]

Miller, Savin, Sedrish Indicted[edit]

Miller, Savin, and executive producer/unit production manager Jay Sedrish were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass on July 3, 2014.[6] On Sunday July 13, Miller and Savin turned themselves over to Wayne County authorities in southeast Georgia, in the city of Jesup.[80] According to Georgia law, they could face 10 years in prison for the charges of involuntary manslaughter.[81] Miller and Savin each pled not guilty. Their attorney Ed Garland said, "They are completely innocent of any criminal conduct. This is a great tragedy, but it was a circumstance that does not give rise to criminal liability as I see the facts." According to Sheriff John Carter, they were released on cash bonds of $27,700 each.[82] As expected, Jay Sedrish turned himself in at the Wayne County jail on Thursday July 17, and was released after posting $27,700 bond.[83]

Statements by Miller and Savin[edit]

On July 17, 2014, Miller and Savin put out their first public statement through their attorney Don Samuel, that they both had pleaded not guilty in the Wayne County Superior Court. They stated that they had remained silent out of respect for the family of Sarah Jones, their loved ones and all of the crew who were injured on that very sad day.[84]

In the same statement, Miller and Savin also said "We have been in the television and movie business since 1990. We have produced and directed more than 10 features and television movies. We have always emphasized the safety of the crew. In all those years we have never had a significant injury or accident of any kind."[85]

However this claim was disputed by Katie Dover, who was seriously injured in 2012 while working in the costume department during pre-production on their recent film CBGB. While inside a trailer that was not properly leveled, Dover suffered an injury that required leaving work to go to the hospital, being replaced on the film, substantial rehab, and an extended period off from work.[86]

Schwartz Indicted[edit]

On September 10, 2014 Hillary Schwartz, the first assistant director of Midnight Rider, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing.[8] She turned herself in to authorities on September 30 and posted bail.[87]

Criminal Trial Schedule[edit]

At a special status hearing on September 30, 2014 Judge Anthony Harrison set the following schedule for the criminal trial of the four defendants:[8][88]

Nov 10: The State will provide discovery to those Defendants who have opted into discovery.

Dec 10: Defendants who have opted into discovery will provide reciprocal discovery.

Jan 12, 2015: Motions shall be filed.

Jan 26: Responses to Motions shall be filed.

Feb 12-13: Hearings on all pre-trial motions in this case. 9:30 am Wayne County Courthouse, Jesup, Georgia

March 9: Jury Selection and trial shall commence. 9:30 am Wayne County Courthouse, Jesup, Georgia[87]

Civil Lawsuits[edit]

Jones' et al. Vs Unclaimed Freight Productions et al.[edit]

The parents of Sarah Jones filed a wrongful death lawsuit, on behalf of their daughter, against the producers of the film Midnight Rider, and related companies and individuals, on May 21, 2014 in Chatham County, Georgia. Chatham County includes Savannah, Georgia where the film production was based

The complaint stated: "Each of the Midnight Riders Defendants had knowledge, actual or constructive, that the scene filmed on February 20 was to take place on active railroad tracks, without permission from CSX, and each Midnight Rider Defendant knew of the danger presented by filming under those circumstances,"[89]

The following defendants were named in the lawsuit:[90]

  • Randall Miller, producer/director
  • Jody Savin, producer/writer
  • Jay Sedrish, Executive Producer, Unit Production Manager
  • Hillary Schwartz, First Assistant Director
  • Gregg Allman, Executive Producer (dismissed with prejudice)[91]
  • Michael Lehman, Executive Producer (dismissed with prejudice)[91]
  • Don Mandrik, Executive Producer
  • Jeffrey N. Gant, Executive Producer
  • Charles Baxter, Locations Manager
  • Mike Ozier, Cinematographer
    • WME BI Holdings, LLC, Mike Ozier's loan out company
  • Open Road Films, film distributor (dismissed without prejudice )[91]
  • Film Allman, LLC, the Georgia Corporation formed to make the film
  • Unclaimed Freight Productions, Inc.
  • Meddin Studios, LLC
  • Rayonier Performance Fibers, LLC, property owner adjacent to CSX railroad property
  • CSX Transportation, Inc.

CSX in their cross claim filed on September 2, in response to the lawsuit, revealed the producers requested twice, and were denied twice in writing, permission to use their property and railroad trestle. They also revealed that their employees on two previous CSX trains saw the film crew congregating near their property where there is also a railroad crossing. The Jones attorneys contend that given these warning signs CSX should have slowed the train and sent an investigator to the site.[28] In their attempt to deny any responsibility for the train collision with the crew, CSX then went on to accuse Sarah of being responsible for her own death. The Jones' family attorney Jeffrey R. Harris responded, "The fact is, while the Defendants have differing accounts as to what happened on February 20th, one thing is abundantly clear — Sarah had no knowledge of the imminent danger awaiting her when she went to work that morning. To the contrary, she believed those in charge of the Midnight Rider production had taken the appropriate safety precautions and secured permission to film on the railroad tracks."[92]

In an August filing Open Road Films asked the court to drop them from the lawsuit claiming they were not involved in the production as well as there being jurisdictional issues. However in a September 10 filing the Jones family urged the court not to dismiss them, saying that Open Road Films "essentially facilitated the production of ‘Midnight Rider’ and, at a minimum, there is a factual question regarding the extent of Open Road’s involvement and knowledge regarding the making of ‘Midnight Rider.’ Sarah Jones was killed as a direct result of the filming and production of ‘Midnight Rider,’ and therefore, Plaintiff’s wrongful death claims are directly connected and intertwined with Open Road’s business in Georgia.”[93][94] [95]

The Motion Hearing for the civil case scheduled for October 28 was continued until November 13 as plaintiffs and defendents with pending motions were reported in negotiations.[96][97] The motion hearing was then canceled as Sarah Jones family came to an agreement with three of the defendants in the civil lawsuit on October 30, 2014. Gregg Allman and Michael Lehman were dismissed with prejudice and Open Road Films was dismissed without prejudice.[91] The lawsuit would continue with the remaining defendents. “The legal process is working and questions are being answered,” Richard Jones said on behalf of the Jones family. “During a very difficult and trying time for our family, Gregg Allman and Michael Lehman demonstrated their genuine sorrow over the loss of our daughter and their willingness to work with us in the future to ensure safe film sets for all. For that, we are grateful.”[91]

Gregg Allman Vs Unclaimed Freight Productions et al.[edit]

In an attempt to halt the effort to restart filming of Midnight Rider by Randall Miller and Jody Savin, Gregg Allman, the subject of the film and executive producer, filed suit on April 28, 2014 in Chatham County Superior Court.[26] Gregg Allman claimed that Randall Miller and Jody Savin had failed to pay the agreed upon option price for the film rights and had failed to start primary photography by the date stipulated in the option contract. After one day of court proceedings that included Randall Miller testifying on the stand, the trial came to a halt as Allman and Millers attorneys agreed to an out of court settlement. Nothing has been publicly revealed about this settlement.

Joyce Gilliard et al. Vs Unclaimed Freight Productions et al.[edit]

Hairstylist Joyce Gilliard, who was one of those seriously injured on the railroad trestle, filed a lawsuit May 28, 2014 against the production company, producers and related companies in a lawsuit that resembles the one filed by Sarah's family.[98]

Both lawsuits claim Randall Miller did not get permission from CSX to film on the railroad trestle and withheld this information from the cast and crew.

"The pressure from the train was so strong it pulled me off what I was holding on to and it snapped my arm," Gilliard told reporters during a conference call on workplace safety April 23. "I immediately grabbed my arm and wrapped it up with a piece of the prop, which was a sheet."[99][100]

Antonyia Verna et al. Vs Unclaimed Freight Productions et al.[edit]

Makeup artist Antonyia Verna became the third to file a lawsuit, based on negligence, against the producers and related entities, again resembling the lawsuit filed by Sarah Jones family.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants failed to take "minimum safety precautions" and failed to "comply with applicable industry standards."[101]

Film Allman LLC Vs New York Marine and General Insurance Company[edit]

Film Allman LLC filed suit August 12 in L.A. Superior Court against New York Marine and General Insurance Company claiming they failed to pay an agreed upon 1.6 million for the losses incurred by the shutdown of the film due to the tragic events of Feb 20.

According to the suit, "Even worse, New York Marine unjustifiably has taken the position that the policy no longer will insure Midnight Rider on a forward-going basis and has threatened to cancel the policy altogether, thereby leaving Film Allman without any insurance coverage for the restarted production." [102]

Film Allman says it is faced with the "prospect of having to abandon Midnight Rider entirely" thanks to the "impossible financial predicament – the type of situation that insurance is designed to prevent…"[27][102]

While the litigation was originally filed in Los Angeles Superior Court it has since moved to federal court with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.[103]

Federal NTSB, OSHA and FRA Investigations, Citations and Reports[edit]

NTSB Investigation[edit]

Preliminary Report[edit]

National Transportation Safety Board—Preliminary Report Railroad DCA14FR005

Text of the report:[34] "On February 20, 2014, about 4:30 p.m. eastern standard time, northbound CSX Transportation (CSX) train Q12519 struck a film crew and an obstruction on a railroad trestle near Jesup, Georgia. At the time of accident, the film crew was preparing to film on the railroad trestle. One person was killed, and six people were transported to hospitals. The train, operating on a single main track, consisted of two locomotives and 37 cars. The accident occurred on the CSX Nahunta Subdivision (milepost A543.7) at a railroad trestle that crosses the Altamaha River. At the time of the accident, the train was traveling about 58 mph (the maximum authorized train speed was 70 mph). The sky was clear, and the temperature was 80° F. Parties to the investigation are the Federal Railroad Administration; CSX Transportation; the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen; and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers."

Investigation Ongoing[edit]

On October 15, 2014 it was reported that there is still an open investigation with the NTSB and it was noted that it could take up to a year to complete. Once completed it would then be reviewed by the NTSB board.[104]

OSHA citations of Film Allman LLC[edit]

The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Film Allman LLC for willful and serious citations with a proposed penalty of $74,900 on August 14, 2014.[7]

The following are excerpts from the OSHA Region 4 press release:

"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."[7] "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."[7] "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."[7] "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."[7]

Jeffrey Harris, representing the family of Jones, issued this statement: “While we have yet to see the full report, OSHA’s findings confirm that Sarah’s death was avoidable if common sense safety precautions and actions had been followed. It also confirms that safety was not the first priority on the set of “Midnight Rider’ and that willful ignorance put Sarah — and others — at risk. We will continue the investigation into this tragedy and will hold all parties responsible for their actions or lack thereof. Sarah’s family is determined her death will not be in vain and that safety will be top priority for all involved in the film industry. Safety for Sarah.” [9]

The producers chose to dispute the charges and fines proposed by OSHA on September 5, the last day possible. The OSHA Review Commission will next file an official complaint and it will go before a judge.[105]

FRA Statement on Investigation[edit]

The Federal Railroad Administration, on October 15, 2014, stated that they are still investigating the train collision. A spokesperson said, "The FRA is investigating the February 20, 2014 accident that occurred on the CSX rail line in Nahunta, Georgia. Once completed, the investigation will identify the root cause of the accident, and we will take all appropriate enforcement actions.” [104]

Independent Agency Reports on Train Collision[edit]

National Council on Occupational Safety and Health[edit]

COSH Report: Preventable Deaths 2014[edit]

The National Council on Occupational Safety and Health, or COSH, cited Sarah Jones in one of seven case studies of workplace deaths that could have been prevented in its annual report. Hairstylist Joyce Gilliard, also injured in the Midnight Rider tragedy, spoke about the report on a conference call with reporters and separately said in a statement, “After what I saw and lived through, I want to advocate for safety and prevent any other tragedies or injuries in the workplace.”[23]

Mary Vogel, Executive Director of COSH responded to the August 14 OSHA citations, "The death of cinematographer Sarah Jones and injuries to eight crew members were entirely preventable,” said Vogel. “OSHA was right to cite producer Film Allman, LLC, for willful and serious violations of federal law. But the proposed fines of $74,900 are way too low for this kind of tragedy, after a young worker lost her life and others were seriously injured."[106]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b McNary, Dave (November 11, 2013). "AFM: Gregg Allman Biopic to Shoot in January (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety (magazine). 
  2. ^ a b "Open Road To Bring Gregg Allman Biopic To U.S. Theaters". Deadline.com (PMC). May 18, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Johnson, Ted (February 20, 2014). "Train Accident Kills Crew Member of Gregg Allman Biopic". Variety (Penske Business Media). Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Sacks, Ethan (February 21, 2014). "Crew member killed by train during filming of Gregg Allman biopic 'Midnight Rider,' seven others injured". Daily News. Retrieved February 22, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Yamato, Jen; Busch, Anita (February 26, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Suspends Filming Following Train Death; Production Company Issues Statement". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c Lewis, Hilary (July 3, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Director Randall Miller, Producers Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter, Criminal Trespass". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 3, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g US Dept. of Labor, OSHA Region 4 (August 14, 2014). "Production company for "Midnight Rider" film cited for willful and serious safety violations following worker fatality and injuries<!lang>" (Press release) (in {$lang}</!lang>). OSHA. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  8. ^ a b c Busch, Anita; Yamato, Jen (September 29, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider': 1st Assistant Director Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter". Deadline.com. 
  9. ^ a b Johnson, Ted (August 14, 2014). "U.S. Department of Labor Cites ‘Midnight Rider’ Production for ‘Willful and Serious’ Safety Violations". Variety (magazine). 
  10. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 6, 2014). "William Hurt to Play Gregg Allman in Biopic 'Midnight Rider'". TheWrap. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c Los Angeles Times (April 23, 2014). "William Hurt pulls out of 'Midnight Rider'". latimes.com. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b McNary, Dave (December 13, 2013). "Gregg Allman Biopic Casts Tyson Ritter as Lead Role". Variety (Penske Business Media). Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  13. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 22, 2014). "'Vampire Academy' Star Zoey Deutch Lands Female Lead in Gregg Allman Biopic". TheWrap. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c Kit, Borys (February 7, 2014). "Eliza Dushku, Bradley Whitford Join Gregg Allman Biopic". The Hollywood Reporter (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Chad Lindberg Catches 'Midnight Rider'". Deadline.com (PMC). February 4, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c Kit, Borys (February 14, 2014). "Gregg Allman Biopic Adds Three More". The Hollywood Reporter (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  17. ^ Mike, Flemming Jr (March 7, 2011). "Theater Chains AMC, Regal Launch Distribution Venture Open Road With Tom Ortenberg At Helm". Deadline.com. 
  18. ^ Kilday, Gregg (May 18, 2013). "Cannes: Open Road to Distribute Gregg Allman Biopic". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  19. ^ McNary, David (May 18, 2013). "Gregg Allman Biopic Set". Variety (magazine). 
  20. ^ Agular, Carlos (November 12, 2013). "ISA of the Day: The Exchange brings 'Accident' and 'Midnight Rider: The Gregg Allman Story' to AFM". Indiewire. Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  21. ^ Busch, Anita (February 21, 2014). "Open Road Says It Will Still Release 'Midnight Rider'; Female Crew Member Killed in On-Set Train Accident Identified". Deadline.com (PMC). Retrieved February 22, 2014. 
  22. ^ Schweier, Philip (March 3, 2014). "Allman film". Savannah Business Journal. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  23. ^ a b Emery, Debbie (February 27, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Director Randall Miller Working With PR Strategist". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  24. ^ a b Yamato, Jen; Busch, Anita (April 14, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Director Randall Miller Attempting To Move Forward With Film In LA Following Sarah Jones Death". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Jacobs, Matthew (April 22, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Production Sparks Boycott Campaign In Honor Of Sarah Jones' Death". The Huffington Post. 
  26. ^ a b McNary, Dave (May 13, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider': Gregg Allman Agrees to Drop Lawsuit Against Producers". Variety (magazine). 
  27. ^ a b c d Patten, Dominic; Yamato, Jen (August 13, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Producers, Looking To Restart Pic, Sue Over Denied Insurance Claims". deadline.com. Retrieved August 14, 2014. 
  28. ^ a b Johnson, Ted (September 3, 2014). "CSX: ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Denied Access Twice Before Crash". Variety (magazine). 
  29. ^ a b Johnson, Ted (February 24, 2014). "Sheriff's Report: ‘Midnight Rider’ Was Denied Railroad Permit, According to CSX Email". Variety (Penske Business Media). Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  30. ^ a b Dickey, Josh (February 20, 2014). "Crewmember on Greg Allman Biopic 'Midnight Rider' Killed During Train Mishap". TheWrap. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
  31. ^ http://deadline.com/2014/10/midnight-rider-death-timeline-sarah-jones-train-accident-investigation-1201266684/
  32. ^ http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/camera-assistant-killed-midnight-rider-train-accident-26618524
  33. ^ http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/footage-shows-midnight-rider-cast-crew-running-train-26618564
  34. ^ a b NTSB (March 2014). "Preliminary Report Railroad DCA14FR005". National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  35. ^ Johnson, Ted (February 22, 2014). "Midnight Rider' Exec on Fatal Train Accident: ‘No Corners Were Cut’". Variety (Penske Business Media). Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  36. ^ Johnson, Scott (4 March 2014). "A Train, a Narrow Trestle and 60 Seconds to Escape: How 'Midnight Rider' Victim Sarah Jones Lost Her Life". The Hollywood Reporter (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  37. ^ "Death of Georgia film crew member hit by train was 'senseless,' father says". NOLA.com. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  38. ^ Emery, Debbie (16 April 2014). "'Midnight Rider' to Resume Production in Los Angeles, IATSE Says". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  39. ^ Breznican, Anthony (April 26, 2014). "'Midnight Rider': After on-set death, William Hurt withdraws from film". Entertainment Wekly. 
  40. ^ Lewis, Hilary (April 25, 2014). "Gregg Allman Begs 'Midnight Rider' Director Not to Resume Filming". Retrieved April 30, 2014. 
  41. ^ Busch, Anita; Fleming Jr., Mike (October 2, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Director Randall Miller Trying To Start New Film About Aging Rocker". Deadline.com. 
  42. ^ Humber, Daryl (February 21, 2014). "Sarah". Dollygrippery. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  43. ^ "Slates for Sarah". Facebook. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  44. ^ Verrier, Richard; Hamedy, Saba (February 25, 2014). "'Slates for Sarah' campaign pays tribute to film worker killed by train". LA Times. 
  45. ^ Flaherty, Keely (February 25, 2014). ""Slates For Sarah" Is Hollywood’s Heartwarming Response To Crew Member’s Fatal On-Set Accident". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  46. ^ "Sarah Jones Remembered". Oscar.com. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  47. ^ Zdanowicz, Christina (March 3, 2014). "Film crew worker's tragic death prompts Hollywood movement". CNN. 
  48. ^ a b Klausner, Alexandra (March 3, 2014). "Oscar winners commemorate crew member, 27, killed on the set of 'Midnight Rider' by wearing black ribbons in her honor at the ceremony". Daily Mail. 
  49. ^ a b Yamato, Jen (February 25, 2014). "OSCARS UPDATE: Production Community Rallying To Add ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew Member To In Memoriam Tribute". Deadline.com (PMC). Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  50. ^ Hamedy, Saba (March 2, 2014). "Oscars 2014: Academy includes Sarah Jones 'In Memoriam'". Los Angeles Times.
  51. ^ Johnson, Ted (February 25, 2014). "Campaign Launched to Honor Sarah Jones During Oscars' In Memoriam Tribute". Variety (Penske Business Media). Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  52. ^ Yamato, Jen (March 2, 2014). "OSCARS: In Memoriam Tribute Includes ‘Midnight Rider’s Sarah Jones". Deadline.com (PMC). Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  53. ^ a b Giardina, Carolyn (March 30, 2014). "Oscar Winner Haskell Wexler Speaks About Sarah Jones Accident, Urges Safety". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  54. ^ McNary, Dave (May 7, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider': ASC President Blames ‘Loss of Humanity’ for Sarah Jones Death". Variety (magazine). 
  55. ^ Couch, Aaron (May 7, 2014). "ASC President: Sarah Jones' Death Result of 'Spiritually' Ailing Industry". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  56. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (May 8, 2014). "'Midnight Rider': Sarah Jones' Father Hopes for Cure to Industry's 'Spiritual Sickness'". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  57. ^ A Pledge to Sarah E. Jones. "A Pledge to Sarah E. Jones". A Pledge to Sarah E. Jones. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  58. ^ Lewis, Hilary (March 5, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Accident: Sarah Jones' Friends Set Up Pledge to Ensure Set Safety". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  59. ^ Yamato, Jen (August 2, 2014). "UPDATED: Crowdfunding Sarah Jones Safety App Reaches Its Goal". Deadline.com. 
  60. ^ a b Yamato, Jen (October 3, 2014). "Sarah Jones ‘Set Safety’ App In Launch Mode". Deadline.com. 
  61. ^ McNary, Dave (October 3, 2014). "Midnight Rider: Sarah Jones Safety App Debuts". Variety (magazine). 
  62. ^ McNary, Dave (October 14, 2014). "Midnight Rider: Sarah Jones Safety App Expands to Apple Platform". Variety (magazine). 
  63. ^ McNary, Dave (October 20, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’: Cinematographers Guild Releases Safety App in Honor of Sarah Jones". Variety (magazine). 
  64. ^ Koplowitz, Howard. "'Vampire Diaries' Crew Member, Sarah Jones, Dies In 'Midnight Rider' Train Accident". International Business Times (IBT Media). 
  65. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (March 4, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Death: Sarah Elizabeth Jones, Tribute Planned for Camera Operators Awards". The Hollywood Reporter (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  66. ^ Busch, Anita (March 5, 2014). "Sarah Jones To Be Honored This Weekend By Unions With Candlelight Vigil And Memorial". Deadline.com (PMC). Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  67. ^ Busch, Anita (March 7, 2014). "Anger, Impassioned Pleas For Safety at Tribute For Sarah Jones: 'No One Should Ever Die On A Television Or Movie Set. Period.'". Deadline.com (PMC). Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  68. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (March 8, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Accident: Sarah Elizabeth Jones, Remembered at Camera Operators Awards". The Hollywood Reporter (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  69. ^ Johnson, Scott (March 2, 2014). "'Midnight Rider': Hundreds Mourn Sarah Jones at Emotional Memorial". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  70. ^ Johnson, Ted (March 2, 2014). "Sarah Jones Memorial: ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew Member Remembered for ‘Spirit’ and ‘Spunk’". Variety (magazine). 
  71. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (March 7, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Accident: More Than 500 Gather for Candlelight Walk and Memorial for Sarah Jones (Video)". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  72. ^ http://www.SafetyforSarah.com
  73. ^ Miller, Daniel; James, Meg (July 4, 2014). "Charges could prompt film industry to take crew safety more seriously". LA Times. 
  74. ^ Busch, Anita (August 10, 2014). "Sarah Jones’ Family Launches ‘Safety For Sarah’ Website". Deadline.com. 
  75. ^ a b Holman, Jordyn (September 22, 2014). "‘The Vampire Diaries,’ ‘The Originals’ Crews To Hold Walkathon for Sarah Jones". Variety (magazine). 
  76. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (August 16, 2014). "Creative Arts Emmys: Sarah Jones Remembered in Tribute Reel". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  77. ^ Busch, Anita (September 22, 2014). "Sarah Jones Walk-A-Thon Planned By ‘Vampire Diaries,’ ‘The Originals’ Cast And Crew". Deadline.com. 
  78. ^ Lewis, Hilary (October 6, 2014). "Sarah Jones Walk-a-Thons Raise More Than $35,000 for On-Set Safety". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  79. ^ Bloom, David (October 5, 2014). "Slates For Sarah Walkathons Raise More Than $34,000". Deadline.com. 
  80. ^ Yamato, Jen (July 15, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Surrender To Georgia Police: The Mugshots". deadline.com. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  81. ^ Verrier, Richard (July 15, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' producers booked in Ga. in camera assistant's death". latimes.com. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  82. ^ Johnson, Ted (July 15, 2014). "Attorney for ‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers: ‘They Are Innocent of Any Criminal Conduct’". variety.com. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  83. ^ Lewis, Hilary (July 17, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Producer Jay Sedrish Surrenders to Georgia Police". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  84. ^ Highfill, Samantha (July 17, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' filmmakers enter not guilty plea, release first public statement". ew.com. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  85. ^ Yamato, Jen (July 27, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers Enter Not Guilty Plea, Break Silence: "This Was Not A Crime"". Deadline.com. 
  86. ^ Busch, Anita; Yamato, Jen (July 22, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Filmmakers’ Safety Claims A "Lie", Says Former Crew Member". Deadline.com. 
  87. ^ a b Busch, Anita; Yamato, Jen (September 30, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Trial Date Set For Indicted Filmmakers; 1st Assistant Director Hillary Schwartz Turns Herself In". Deadline.com. 
  88. ^ Youn, Soo (September 3, 2014). "Train Company Says It Denied 'Midnight Rider' Filming Permits Twice". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  89. ^ Presto, Suzanne; Ford, Dana (May 22, 2014). "Family files lawsuit in death of 'Midnight Rider' crew member Sarah Jones". CNN. 
  90. ^ Lewis, Hilary (May 21, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Producers Sued by Sarah Jones' Parents". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  91. ^ a b c d e Team, Deadline (October 30, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’: Open Road & Gregg Allman Dropped From Civil Suit". Deadline.com. 
  92. ^ Youn, Soo (September 4, 2014). "'Midnight Rider': Sarah Jones' Family Lawyer Blasts Train Track Owners". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  93. ^ Johnson, Ted (September 10, 2014). "Sarah Jones’ Family Urges Court Not to Dismiss Open Road from Lawsuit". Variety (magazine). 
  94. ^ Youn, Soo (September 10, 2014). "'Midnight Rider': Sarah Jones Family Says Film's Distributor Can't Be Dismissed From Lawsuit". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  95. ^ Yamato, Jen (September 10, 2014). "Sarah Jones’ Family Fights Open Road’s Attempt To Get Out Of ‘Midnight Rider’ Wrongful Death Suit". Deadline.com. 
  96. ^ "Chattham County, GA: Eastern Judicial Circuit of GA". Retrieved 2014-10-06. 
  97. ^ Leon, Patty (October 28, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Motion Hearing Pushed As Open Road & Sarah Jones Family In Talks". Deadline.com. 
  98. ^ Bynum, Russ (May 29, 2014). "Summerville woman who worked on Allman biopic sues over Georgia train crash". The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC). 
  99. ^ "'Midnight Rider' Hairstylist Sues Gregg Allman, Movie Producers". The Hollywood Reporter. May 30, 2014.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  100. ^ Kreps, Daniel (May 30, 2014). "Gregg Allman Sued Over Biopic Accident Injuries". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-08-28. 
  101. ^ Gardner, Eriq (June 17, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Producers, Gregg Allman Facing New Injury Lawsuit". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  102. ^ a b Gardner, Eriq (August 13, 2014). "'Midnight Rider' Producer Demands Insurer Provide Ongoing Coverage". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  103. ^ Johnson, Ted (October 17, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Insurer Cites Negligence in Refusal to Pay Claim". Variety (magazine). 
  104. ^ a b Busch, Anita (October 15, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Accident: Federal Regulators Still Investigating "Root Cause"". Deadline.com. 
  105. ^ Yamato, Jen (September 5, 2014). "‘Midnight Rider’ Producers To Contest OSHA Safety Violation Charges". Deadline.com. 
  106. ^ National COSH (August 14, 2014). "OSHA Citation Against "Midnight Rider" Producers Shows Need for Tougher Penalties<!lang>" (Press release) (in {$lang}</!lang>). Retrieved 2014-08-28. 

External links[edit]