'Midnight Rider': Hundreds Mourn Sarah Jones at Emotional Memorial

Sarah Jones

Union leader Bruce Doering told the crowd, "We're committed to taking the issue of unsafe conditions as far as we can take it — and like Sarah — full-on."

ATLANTA -- Around 700 mourners gathered here on Sunday to remember Sarah Jones, the camera assistant who was killed while working on Midnight Rider.

The emotional memorial took place at Atlanta Botanical Garden's Mershon Hall and was attended by friends, family and members of the Local 600 branch of the IATSE union, as well as one of the people injured in the accident that killed Jones.

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John Strickland, a local reverend, read from the poem "Afterglow," reciting "I'd like the tears of those who grieve to dry before the sun." He spoke of mortality and not putting off telling loved ones you care about them.

"When we're young adults, we think we'll live forever. But parents die. Friends die. Sometimes even children die. So tell the ones that you love that you love them," Strickland said.

The memorial took place just hours ahead of the Academy Awards, where a group had been petitioning the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to recognize Jones during its "In Memoriam" segment. A Facebook and Twitter campaign also urged attendees to wear black ribbons in her honor.

Strickland alluded to the Oscars during his remembrance, telling the crowd, "When those stars walk across the stage, it's because of people like you." 

Union leader Bruce Doering also addressed the crowd with visible emotion. Doering, executive director of IATSE Local 600, said there had been an outpouring of support from union members around the world and people who knew Jones.

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Doering said IATSE, which annually gives out a scholarship, would rename the next edition of it the Sarah Elizabeth Jones Scholarship. It will be given to a son or daughter of a union member who shows interest in doing camera work.

He quoted one person who'd written him about Jones, who said "She flew into our hearts and everyone who worked with her and knew her." Lloyd Ahern, the director of photography on Army Wives, who worked with Jones, told Doering the late crewmember's presence was "like sprinkling fairy dust" on whatever situation she found herself in.

Doering also read a letter from a young woman, who wrote: "Sarah, you're the first example I had of a female camera assistant. You stole my heart. I will aim to be someone you can be proud of."

He went on to say the union was committed to learning what caused the accident.

"Since this terrible accident happened, we're trying to figure out how this happened and we're committed to taking the issue of unsafe conditions as far as we can take it -- and like Sarah -- full-on," Doering said.

Jones died Feb. 20 when she was struck and killed by a train during preproduction on the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider. The accident occurred on a train trestle over the Altamaha River near the Doctortown Road crossing in Wayne County, Ga. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the accident, which also left seven other crewmembers injured. Questions have been raised as to whether the production had permission to be filming on the train tracks.

Doering said the Local 491 union had been assisting in investigating the incident in Savannah, and that there will be a candlelight vigil held in Jones' honor Friday in Los Angeles.