'Midnight Rider': Sarah Jones' Death Was Preventable, Hairstylist Says
Midnight Rider hairstylist Joyce Gilliard, who was injured by the same train that struck and killed camera assistant Sarah Jones, says she thinks the tragedy, which also left several other staffers injured, could have been prevented.
"This tragedy could have been prevented if safety preventions and protocols were met and people who were in charge made conscious decisions to ensure we were safe," she said, speaking as a safety advocate on a conference call to mark the release of a report about workplace deaths and how they can be prevented.
The staffer on the Gregg Allman biopic suffered a compound fracture in her left arm and recalled what happened to her and the other crew members on Midnight Rider when they were filming on railroad tracks on a narrow trestle on Feb. 20.
"We had no time to get off the tracks to safety," Gilliard said, despite crew members saying they would have 60 seconds to escape. "I held on to the side of the trestle and placed my life as well as my other co-workers that were there."
The pressure from the train pulled her off of what she was holding onto and caused her arm to snap in two, Gilliard explained, echoing what she previously told The Hollywood Reporter about the incident.
After covering her arm with a sheet being used as a prop, Gilliard said she waited for help. She was then air-lifted to the hospital and had reconstructive surgery on her left arm.
Gilliard added that she felt the tragedy could have been prevented if people were not afraid to speak up.
"I want to advocate for safety on set and at anybody's workplace and know that we can all feel comfortable enough to leave our family, go to work and return home for our family," she said.
While Gilliard declined to comment on the ongoing investigation into Jones' death, she did think that there should be some reforms in terms of conditions for entertainment industry crew members.
"People don't realize that we as crew members, we work at least 15-hour days, we work super-long hours, we work in dangerous conditions with high-wattage electrical power and lots of scenery, and we work on location shoots that have a lot of dangers too," Gilliard said. "I'm hoping that after all of this, the people who are in charge let people be aware of what the potential dangers are and try to take necessary steps to minimize the risk of tragedies like what happened to Sarah Jones."
A senior consultant for the organization that released the report, the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health, Peter Dooley, added that each workplace fatality should be a wake-up call for reform.
"Each one of these workplace fatalities is a wake-up call that should result in implementation of processes and systems in workplaces that prevent these kinds of tragedies," Dooley said. "Unfortunately, that's not what's happening in the most part. Many workplace fatalities, the fines that ultimately employers pay are in the low thousands of dollars, if they get fined, and it doesn't result in much of a lesson for employers that they have to elevate workplace safety to a much higher level and they have to incorporate the systems that we know can be effective. So in general…we know that these kinds of cases can be used as a guideline for where we need to be going."
The organization's report said that more than 50,000 workplace deaths occur each year and that these tragedies can be prevented.