'Midnight Rider' May Have Been Denied Permission to Shoot on Train Tracks, Suggests Incident Report

6:32 PM PST 02/24/2014 by Carolyn Giardina, Debbie Emery
Wayne County Sheriff's Office

In the incident report released by the Wayne County Sheriff's office on Monday, the film's executive producer said, "It's complicated," when asked if they had permission to film on the train tracks.

The Wayne County Sheriff's office released a report on Monday that suggests the production of Midnight Rider might not have had permission to shoot on the train tracks where a fatal accident killed a crewmember. 

Sarah Jones, an Atlanta-based second assistant camera operator, died on Thursday when she was hit by a train that was en route from Memphis to Savannah.

STORY: Movie Crewmember Killed on Georgia Set Identified

Jay Sedrish, the executive producer of the film, may himself have cast doubt on whether the production had permission to shoot on the train tracks. According to the incident report, as obtained by NBC affiliate WSAV, when Sedrish was asked if he had permission to be on the trestle or be on the train tracks, he replied: "That's complicated."
 
Additionally, emails from CSX, the company that operates the tracks, suggest that permission to film had been denied. "According to the CSX employee, the production company had previously been denied permission to film on the trestle, and there was electronic correspondence to verify that fact," stated the report.

Also on Monday, Steven Poster, ASC, President, Local 600, International Cinematographers Guild, expressed the group's grief in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying that safety is their number one priority.

"Local 600's membership and IATSE members across the country are mourning the loss of Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, who died in a tragic accident last Thursday while shooting on the set of Midnight Rider in Savannah, Georgia. Sarah was a smart, talented camera assistant with an infectious personality and a promising career ahead of her."

The statement continued: "When Locals 600 and 491 received the call about the accident on late Thursday afternoon (local time), we immediately sent representatives to the site. We are cooperating with ongoing government investigations including OSHA and NTSB and the local Sheriff's office and we are providing grief counseling for the crew.

"The safety of our crews is of paramount importance to this union and we will work tirelessly to ensure that a tragedy of this kind never happens again. There is no way we can mitigate the pain and the loss of Sarah. But we hope that something good can come out of this very unfortunate situation. It will surely shape our talks with producers in the future. There will be memorials across the country to honor the memory of beloved member, Sarah Jones," it concluded.

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Seven people were also injured in the accident, which occurred while the crew was shooting a scene on a train trestle over the Altamaha River near the Doctortown Road crossing in Wayne County, Ga.

The injured included a member of Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Local 798, who was airlifted to a local hospital, where she is recovering from reportedly serious injuries to her arm and wrist, according to a source.

Additionally, sound mixer Richard Lightstone and his production sound team were "banged up" but are OK. Lightstone is a past president of Cinema Audio Society, which held its annual awards on Saturday, where society president David E. Fluhr made the announcement.

STORY: Movie Crewmember Killed in Train Accident on Georgia Set

Midnight Rider looks at Allman's life during younger days (where he is played by Tyson Ritter) and at age 64 (portrayed by William Hurt). Unclaimed Freight Productions' Randall Miller and Jody Savin are producing the film, with Miller directing from a script he wrote with Savin. Open Road Films is releasing the film domestically; The Exchange is handling international sales.

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