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Indictments in Sarah Jones Death




Film director Randall Miller (Bottle Shock), along with Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish, the producers of the ill-fated Gregg Allman biopic, Midnight Rider, have been indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, the Hollywood Reporter and other sources reported Thursday morning. The charges were filed in a superior court in the state of Georgia, where a February 20 accident killed camera assistant Sarah Jones.

The 27-year-old Jones’ death occurred when a freight train unexpectedly rolled through a scene being staged on railroad tracks in the small town of Doctortown Landing. Her death, which became a cause celebre among Hollywood safety activists, threw a spotlight on the dangers faced by below-the-line crew members as production companies large and small have taken shortcuts to keep down costs. With producers – particularly those involved in reality TV shows –increasingly adopting an accidents-will-happen attitude toward the safety of their crews, deaths and injuries have mounted.

According to the indictments, the Pasadena-based film company Unclaimed Freight Productions was shooting on a trestle above the Altamaha River without a permit and had not notified the train company, CSX Transportation, of its shooting schedule. Following the uproar over the accident, and amid demands for increased safety measures made by the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the Allman film was shelved.

For years IATSE’s cinemaphotographers Local 600, to which Jones belonged, has campaigned to make shooting sets safer. At the time of Jones’ death the union issued a statement that read, in part:

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.

Under Georgia law, involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, while criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, could potentially add another 12 months.  The three defendants also face several civil suits that will now await the outcome of their criminal trials before proceeding.

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