New details surface on fatal train case with film crew

Published: Feb. 27, 2014 at 4:44 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 28, 2014 at 3:47 PM EDT
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Sarah Jones (Source: South Carolina Film Council on Facebook)
Sarah Jones (Source: South Carolina Film Council on Facebook)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Crew members from the movie, Midnight Rider, interviewed for several hours Tuesday with detectives about the deadly train crash last week in Wayne County. Many also met with with grief counselors set up by union representatives, as the investigation continues.

It's such a traumatic situation for those involved and those who knew 27 year-old Sarah Jones, who died in the crash. The incident has sent a shockwave through the film making industry.

WTOC has learned from union officials, based on crew member accounts, there was a major Hollywood actor on set Thursday at the railroad site as part of the filming. We also have learned there wasn't a full tech scout, which is when production goes to thelocation to discuss the shoot before the day they actually plan to shoot. Union reps say it wasn't a scheduled shooting day and no set medic or railroad safety officer wason set when 7 people were seriously hurt and Jones was killed.

"In honor of Sarah, please be safe and be heard," Chris Clark with IATSE Local 479 told union members Monday in Atlanta.

An International Cinematagrophers Guild meeting, posted on Youtube, made industry concerns very clear as the film community has set up a Slates for Sarah Facebook page with in memorium tributes from sets around the world.

"Nobody should have been on those train tracks," Clark said. "The hectic hurry up and go mentality on a film set is a hazardous way of thinking....When safety is thrown out the window, accidents will happen in our line of work."

"I mean, they had a mattress on the railroad track," Michael Schiavone, Schiavone Law Group,  told WTOC. "They actually had props out on the tracks."

Savannah criminal defense attorney Michael Schiavone has been following the case. Unclaimed Freight, a production company out of California, is producing Midnight Rider, a Gregg Allman biopic, using talent and crew from Savannah and around the region. The company has produced films in Savannah before, but production is now delayed before it ever started it's 24 day shooting in the Hostess City.

A a new incident report out of Wayne County shows the producers were denied permission to be on the tracks.

"I think that puts you on notice not to go on the tracks. I can't even imagine the decision to go on the tracks without assurance of safety and there wouldn't be train traffic during the time you would be there," Schiavone said.

While investors may want the movie to continue, we've been told crew may not be willing to continue. Some questioned the producers at a meeting over the weekend and were not given the answers about the permits when asked directly.

This is an account from one Facebook post:
JAY SEDRISH, Producer.... In yesterday's crew gathering "Sarah would want us to finish this film".... Unidentified crew member stands and says "no, Sarah would want to be with us in this room now". He went on to ask "show us the permit"..... (Silence)......"please, just show us the permit and explain how this happened"..... (Silence)...."somebody answer did this happen?"....
JAY SEDRISH ... "We can't answer that right now". As he glances toward their Attorney.....

Schiavone says the producers may have their hands full with a multitude of legal consequenses from what happened, from worker's comp, to liability...and possibly more.

"There could be criminal trespass by the railroad company if they didn't give them permission to be there on the tracks. Then, you have civil exposure," he said.

For now, Sarah Jones' friends are trying to get by without her.

"She was a light and inspiration for everybody. Sarah, you will forever be loved," Clark said.

The IATSE union is working on crew safety initiatives and with the Jones family to raise awareness about safety on set. Meanwhile, a memorial will be held Wednesday in Columbia, South Carolina.

We did speak to one crew member, on set that Thursday, who was friends with Sarah Jones and  was face to face with Jones up until the last seconds of her life. He went through grief counseling today and had to cancel our interview, but he did tell the Atlanta Journal Constitution this whole situation still doesn't seem rea and two trains had already passed by..."with great force"...and then the third train took them by surprise.

"We were running. She said, 'I can't carry all this stuff.' I said, 'Throw it. Throw it down." Sarah wasn't able to thrown it down.

"Possibly, it's going to be hard to work again. It will be with me forever," he told the AJC.

WTOC is expecting a statement soon from the lawfirm representing the crew members. Meanwhile, there has been no new comment or statement from Unclaimed Fre​ight or Meddin Studios.

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