On Thursday, about 4:00 p.m., a freight train bore down upon film crew member, Sarah Elizabeth Jones, 27, who was working on a biopic about Southern rocker Gregg Allman. She was filming on railroad tracks on a bridge in southeast Georgia when she was hit and killed by the freight train.
Who is at fault for the death of Sarah Elizabeth Jones?
On Friday, investigators were attempting to determine who was at fault for the death of second camera assistant Sarah Elizabeth Jones, of Atlanta, Georgia. To say that it was the fault of the train’s engineer is not getting at the root cause of her untimely death, as trains are not vehicles which can break on a dime.
Why was she on the tracks in the first place? Why couldn’t Sarah get off of the tracks and out of the way before the train hit her? What was the policy of the film crew and director Randall Miller about filming at such a potentially dangerous location, and what safety procedures, if any, were in place?
These were just a few of the many questions that haunted investigators as they began their search for the answers of what led up to Sarah Elizabeth Jones’ death. The investigators poured over all of the information they could gather related to her death, including emails, video, and the statements of eyewitnesses.
According to her resume, Jones had previously been a camera assistant for two made-for-TV movies, several commercials, and “The Vampire Diaries.”
The tragic incident occurred on a railroad trestle high above the Altamaha River in Wayne county, Georgia, near to or in a town called Jesup. Besides the death of Jones, seven other crew members were injured and were treated at a local hospital.
The companies behind the making of “Midnight Rider,” the biopic about Gregg Allman that the film crew was working on, had gotten the permission of the railroad operator to film close to the railroad tracks. The companies included the biopic’s U.S. distributor Open Road Films; the company in Pasadena producing the flick, Unclaimed Freight; and the Meddin Studios Film Crew, based in Georgia, who were filming the biopic.
According to Variety, the film crew had been provided with a train schedule. They had interrupted filming for two trains they had expected, but the third one caught them by surprise. They had been in the middle of the filming of a dream sequence at the time of the accident.
Director Randall Miller was one of the people who had to scramble out of the way of the approaching freight train. Miller claims that he was told that if they heard a train whistle blow, they had a minute to clear the tracks
Detective Joe Gardner of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department said that one of the issues they will focus on is “whether they had permission to be on the tracks.”
Details about the filming and the train’s speed, if known, have not been released at this time, but it is known that the train had departed from Memphis, Tennessee, and its destination was Savannah, Georgia.
A spokesperson for Open Road Films, Liz Bieber, stated that there was no release date yet for “Midnight Rider.” When asked about how the tragic death of Sarah Elizabeth Jones might adversely affect the future of the flick, she did not offer a comment.
According to police authorities with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, there is a gate leading up to where the tracks run and it is usually kept locked. CSX is the train company which operates the tracks, and the land around the tracks is the property of the Rayonier timber company.
A spokesperson for Rayonier stated that the film company had only been granted permission to film there for one day. He added that the film company were “well aware of the property boundaries.” While the film crew had permission to be on the Rayonier timber company’s land to film, according to one of the investigators, they didn’t have permission to be on the railroad tracks.
The “Midnight Rider” biopic is based on Gregg Allman’s 2013 autobiography of the same name. It will star Eliza Dushku, William Hurt, and Tony Deutch.
Sarah Elizabeth Jones tragically passed away Thursday when she was hit and killed by the freight train while filming the Gregg Allman biopic “Midnight Rider” Her death is raising many questions, and the circumstances of her passing are still under investigation.
Written by: Douglas Cobb