Three filmmakers for Midnight Rider are being charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing in the death of camera assistant operator Sarah Elizabeth Jones, according to Deadline. The Wayne (County) Superior Court in Georgia has filed charges against Randal Miller, Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish.
Jones died on Feb. 20 on the film set outside Doctortown, Georgia when she was hit by a passing train on a train bridge trestle. Seven others were injured.
Here’s what you need to know about the filmmakers and the accident that claimed Jones’ life.
1. Randall Miller and Jody Savin Surrendered to Police
Director Randal Miller wrote the screenplay with his wife Jody Savin (pictured above) based off the autobiography by Gregg Allman. On July 15, the couple surrendered to police in Georgia and posted $27,000 bond, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department told TMZ.
Jay Sedrish was a unit production manager and executive producer on the project. No word on whether he will follow suit with Miller and Savin.
In Georgia, a person commits involuntary manslaughter “in the commission of an unlawful act when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony,” according to the state’s code Title 16, Chapter 5, Article 1. The charge can carry up to 10 years in prison.
2. Jones Was a Camera Assistant on the Film
Jones was operating as a camera assistant on Midnight Rider. She was know as an “indefatigable worker with a cheery disposition” in the local production community, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She previously worked on a short film Webbed, the TV movie My Future Boyfriend and The CW’s The Vampire Diaries.
Her father Richard Jones told The Hollywood Reporter that his daughter had concerns about the shoot’s location.
She did comment that she was in the studio that day seeing about things, and it was her first day on the job that she was killed. In the studio, she’d made some mention about a low budget and she made a comment that some of the people asking her questions should have known more than her and she thought that was odd.
3. The Production Company Didn’t Have Permission to Film by Train Tracks
The Sheriff of Wayne County, Georgia released an incident report in February that suggested the film’s production company didn’t have permission from CSX Transportation to film on the train trestle, according to Variety. He overheard a conversation between an employee of CSX and Sedrish, who said, “It’s complicated,” when asked if he had permission to shoot. He further explained:
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.
4. Film and TV Sets Around the World Remembered Jones in the Wake of Her Death
Film crews around the world posted photos of “Slates for Sarah” after her death. A Facebook page was created to share all the photos from TV shows like Doctor Who, 24: Live Another Day and cast and crew of The Vampire Diaries in the photo above.
Quentin Tarantino included a “Slates for Sarah” banner on the front of his Mardi Gras float and crews from countries like Venezuela, Lebanon, the United Kingdom and Amsterdam showed their support. Her picture was also included in the Oscars’ In Memoriam special.
5. Jones’ Family Filed a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In May, the parents of Jones filed a wrongful death suit, according to CNN. The defendents included “the production company, the company that operates the train tracks, and various individuals, including the film’s director, executive producers, location manager and director of photography.”
Jones’ mother Elizabeth Jones wants to bring to light the unsafe working conditions on film sets into order to get a shot, she told The Hollywood Reporter.
You know they were shooting a dream sequence on those tracks. But instead of a dream sequence, we call it a nightmare sequence… I understand from people in the industry that safety is oftentimes compromised in order to steal a shot, and a dollar mark cannot be put on stealing a shot at the risk of someone’s life.
Two other lawsuits have been filed against the production team, according to Rolling Stone. Makeup artist Antonyia Verna and hairstylist Joyce Gilliard are both suing.
Verna claims that she sustained “serious physical injuries, medical and other necessary expenses, post-traumatic stress, mental anguish, lost income, and mental and physical pain and suffering” due to the incident. Gilliard had her arm fractured and also suffered from post-traumatic stress.
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