Sarah Jones death last month while shooting Midnight Rider was both a tragic accident and a rally cry for safer film sets. Now investigations on the local, state and federal level are looking in to who is at fault for putting the crew in danger, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Initial findings suggest that some industry safety guidelines were broken.
Jones was killed and several crew members injured when a train struck them while they were prepping a scene on the tracks. According to industry guidelines set by the Labor-Management Safety Committee, productions should check with rail companies and local authorities before working on rail lines. CSX, which owns the rail lines, said they denied the Rider production crew permission to work on the lines. The shoot took place anyway, and crew members were warned they would only have 60 seconds to get off the tracks if a train approached. According to an initial report from the local Sheriff's department, the film's executive producer, when asked if they had permission to shoot on the tracks, replied "that's complicated."
So far, everyone who could potentially be blamed has tried to protect themselves. The Directors Guild of America released a statement saying that safety is ultimately the responsibility of the employer. Director Randall Miller immediately put together a PR and law team to handle the fallout from the accident. Nick Gant, the principal of the crew services company in charge of the shoot, said "no corners were cut" and challenged CSX's claim. “CSX will say what they want because they can retract their statement in six months and it will have no press around it,” he said. According Page Six, Gant compared Jones' death to another woman's death by bikini wax before taking the post down.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the case, along with local police. If all three find that safety guidelines were violated, that would only further validate the efforts of the thousands of crew members who paid tribute to Jones and campaigned for her to be memorialized at this year's Oscar ceremony. At a memorial service held Friday in West Hollywood, Jones' father reiterated how the tragedy has galvanized those seeking safer working conditions for film crews. "This is not the end," he said, according to the Los Angeles Times, "but rather the beginning of a movement for safer film sets ... there is no reason for another father to give you this talk."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.