'Midnight Rider' Trial: Video Shows Seconds Before Deadly Train Crash

A finished clip of the film shot on the railroad tracks was also released in court in Georgia.

The moments before the train collision that killed Sarah Jones on the set of Midnight Rider were caught on video in a clip shown in court Tuesday.

In the video, crew members and Wyatt Russell, a star of Randall Miller's biopic of Gregg Allman, rush from the railroad tracks hauling camera equipment and the prop bed used in the scene they were shooting over Georgia's Altamaha River. The train's whistle is audible in the background.

The video ends with the sound of the crash.

Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed when the train hit her. The prop bed came apart on the tracks. When the train hit it, a piece of the bed pushed Jones into the train's way, according to a Georgia police investigation.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors tried Midnight Rider first A.D. Hillary Schwartz on charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. Schwartz was the fourth defendant in the criminal trial in Jesup, Ga., over Jones' death, after director Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and executive producer Jay Sedrish were tried Monday on the same charges.

The prosecutors entered into public record the finished clip of Midnight Rider in which the train trestle appears, but they didn't show it in court. The film would have starred William Hurt — who left the project two months after Jones' death — Russell and Tyson Ritter.

 

Miller, Sedrish and Schwartz received varying sentences, while the charges against Savin were dismissed in the plea deal her husband Miller took.

The filmmakers brought their crew to the railroad tracks on Feb. 20, 2014, even though the train operator, CSX Transportation, denied their requests to film there twice. They "knew they did not have permission to be there," said special assistant district attorney John Johnson in court Monday. "Everyone knew it was a live track."

They disregarded safety measures like keeping objects off the track and posting crew members farther up the tracks to watch for trains. And Sedrish decided not to include a standard railroad safety bulletin to the shoot's "call sheet" for the crew, said Johnson.

The crew were told they would have 60 seconds to run — in the direction of the train, then off the trestle — if a train approached, revealed a THR investigation weeks after the incident. Miller fell onto the tracks but was pulled to safety. But Jones was hit by the train's fuel tank and killed instantly, said Johnson. Several other crew members were injured.

Said district attorney Jackie Johnson after the proceedings Tuesday, "I think it's easy to call this an accident. This is a very preventable tragedy."

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