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Old March 5th, 2014, 09:54 AM   #1
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Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

So many shortcuts. What a crime:
How 'Midnight Rider' Victim Sarah Jones Lost Her Life: A Train, a Narrow Trestle and 60 Seconds to Escape
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Old March 5th, 2014, 11:11 AM   #2
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

I heard about this a few days ago. It was tragic and worse...totally preventable. They were blocking the shot and it seems that a number of people involved in this were quite stupid. They're investigating whether the production company had permits, they certainly didn't have a safety crew from the railroad and for the love of God, to put people on an active track without even the most basic safety equipment or plan is to my mind, bordering on criminal. In my opinion the entire production should be shut down until these deficiencies are addressed.

It is a real disgrace that a bright, energetic young woman had to lose her life because of others ignorance and stupidity.
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Old March 5th, 2014, 02:11 PM   #3
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

CSX is quoted in the story as having denied access to the tracks. The film crew were trespassing. That would also explain the absence of railroad safety personnel, coordinators, etc.
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Old March 5th, 2014, 02:38 PM   #4
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

Hmmm, I didn't see that in the story I read yesterday. That would answer a lot of questions but in any case someone got real stupid about this. Very sad.
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Old March 5th, 2014, 05:38 PM   #5
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
Hmmm, I didn't see that in the story I read yesterday. That would answer a lot of questions but in any case someone got real stupid about this. Very sad.
From the original link:
Quote:
CSX, the Florida-based railway company that owns the tracks, easement and trestle where Jones died, told the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office in the early hours of the investigation that it never granted Midnight Rider’s producers permission to film on the tracks in the first place.

“According to the CSX employee,” Sgt. Ben Robertson wrote in a report obtained by the media, “the production company had previously been denied permission to film on the trestle, and there was electronic correspondence to verify that fact.” Robertson’s report noted that a member of Miller’s crew, when asked whether permission was granted, replied, “It’s complicated.”
"Real stupid" almost seems an understatement after reading the full story -
Quote:
The crew was filming a dream sequence, and they had placed a twin-size metal-framed bed and mattress in the middle of the tracks. Then, Gilliard looked up and saw a light in the distance, followed by the immense howl of a locomotive. It was a train — and it was hurtling toward them.

...........
The only viable escape route to the closest shore lay in running toward the approaching train, now traveling, by one estimate, at almost 60 mph. Gilliard tried to make her way onto the metal gangplank parallel to the tracks. Miller and another crewmember began tugging at the bed, trying to remove it from the train’s path, fearing it might cause a derailment. But as the train approached, Gilliard says, they abandoned their efforts.
Yes, not only were they trespassing on a live train track, it was in the middle of a bridge, barely wide enough for a train itself, and they'd put a metal framed bed and mattress on the tracks...........

The death of the camera assistant and the injury to the hairstylist are bad enough, but it could have been even worse - a catastrophic train accident over a river.

It's hard to believe anyone can have been so stupid........ and someone deserves to go to prison for a very long time.......
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Old March 5th, 2014, 05:47 PM   #6
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

David,
Unless my eyes stopped working the story I read had all the information EXCEPT the part about CSX NOT giving permission to the production company so maybe I read an earlier version of the story OR it had been redacted for what ever reason.
Again in any case it seems to me that this young woman and others were not only placed in harms ways but it was done so carelessly and without reason or cause. IMO the production company, the director and everyone involved is at fault but as to whether anyone will go to jail...I doubt it. Not that they shouldn't if they committed a criminal act but doubtful.

Still in anycase a very sad and tragic case where stupidity has cost someone their life and others hurt.
NO ONE should die making a movie. :-(
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Old March 5th, 2014, 07:10 PM   #7
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

I don't even have words to comment... Beyond irresponsible, that's criminal.
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Old March 5th, 2014, 07:35 PM   #8
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

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Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
IMO the production company, the director and everyone involved is at fault but as to whether anyone will go to jail...I doubt it. Not that they shouldn't if they committed a criminal act but doubtful.
In the UK, I'm pretty sure it would likely lead to a charge of "Involuntary Manslaughter", which Wikipedia defines as "Involuntary manslaughter arises where the accused did not intend to cause death or serious injury, but caused the death of another through recklessness or criminal negligence.".

If I was on a jury, and if the circumstances were as described, I'd have no problem with finding beyond reasonable doubt that "recklessness or criminal negligence" were present. I find it difficult to think of anything more reckless than placing a metal bed and a 20 strong film crew on a live railway track, without the knowledge or consent of the railway company, and doing such on the track well across a narrow bridge over water. The stupidity beggars belief.

Also from the posted link, it states:
Quote:
Georgia law enforcement authorities are treating the investigation into Jones’ death as a negligent homicide, setting the stage for the biggest safety-related scandal to rock Hollywood in at least a decade.
so I'm assuming "negligent homicide" is the US equivalent to "Involuntary Manslaughter"?

And this is before we even consider civil law........
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Old March 5th, 2014, 07:52 PM   #9
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

Needless.

Sad.
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Old March 5th, 2014, 11:48 PM   #10
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

As a safety professional myself, I have been following this story from the beginning.

Putting together the various stories, it appears they were filming on private property beside the track (with permission) and they wanted to set up the set on the track itself. They were denied permission by the railroad, and they were reminded of this fact in an email from the Location Manager the night before. In another email, they called the Location Manager a "stick in the mud."

Part way through the day, they set up on the railroad bridge itself - without permission; without a safety rep from the railroad on set; without any safety guidelines in the Call Sheet; even without a first aid or set medic person on set. (They were a 20 minute drive out of town for the ambulance to respond.)

They were basically hoping to "steal" a shot without permission. It is obvious the producers, director and 1st AD were in full knowledge of this, and concealed it from the crew.

They tried to tell the crew that there were only 2 trains scheduled that day and it would be safe once the second one had passed. They lied. It was a busy main line, that saw 10 to 14 freight trains a day, all traveling in a rural area at close to 60 mph. When the train appeared, the crew's only escape was running TOWARD the train. Eight didn't make it. Seven were severely injured and 2nd Assistant Camera Sarah Jones was killed.

This is a story about one of the crew that day, hairstylist Joyce Gilliard:
Quote:
Before Gilliard knew it, the train was upon her. She found herself clinging to one of the girders. But the blast of pressure and wind from the train’s passing ripped Gilliard’s left arm away from her body and straight into the train. It snapped like a stick. With one hand still on the girder, Gilliard looked down and saw bone sticking out of her sweater. And then she saw blood. She grabbed a sheet that had come loose from the mattress and wrapped her bleeding arm inside it. With the train howling past just inches behind her, Gilliard threw herself onto two metal wires that stretched between the girders and along the gangplank, thrust her head out over the river below and shut her eyes. “I saw my life, my kids, my family, all of it before me,” she says. “I was sure I was going to die.”

One of the first things she saw when she opened her eyes again was a lifeless Jones, her body and face mangled. Like Gilliard, Jones had tried to find shelter on the gangplank. But when the train hit the bed and mattress, it sent debris flying. Something may have hit Jones, possibly propelling her into the train’s path.
Picture in your mind the panic that that crew must have felt, watching the train bearing down on them, knowing it can't stop in time, knowing they were not going to make it off that trestle before it arrived and knowing there was no room on the bridge for a person in between the train and the girders. A rocky shallow river was 100 yards below them, and they had no escape whatsoever.

This was not an accident. This was gross negligence and you can understand the worldwide anger building over this death. We are witnessing a watershed event in the film industry today and the name of Sarah Jones will not be forgotten for a long long time.

Her name appeared at the Academy Awards, and several of the award winners wore black ribbons in her honour.

We will be hearing a LOT about this story in the coming months and years. Professional crews around the world are remembering her name.
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Old March 6th, 2014, 02:28 AM   #11
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

It doesn't change the nature of this tragic incident in anyway, but just to point out a typo, it's closer to 10 yards to the river than 100 yards,
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Old March 6th, 2014, 08:17 AM   #12
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

I shoot a lot of training videos for CSX and I can assure you, they are very strict when it comes to safety. There's no way they would have allowed a movie crew on an active train track. Certainly not without a CSX safety officer on site.

Every morning when we went to shoot a CSX video, we had a safety meeting. Everybody had to participate and then sign a paper saying you had attended the meeting and were aware of the safety parameters. This was done even if the shoot was in a quiet office building. We had another safety meeting if we changed locations. We always had a safety officer with us and had to wear proper safety equipment. Even when we were surrounded by CSX personnel, we were never allowed to shoot on an active train track.

If the crew really had permission from CSX, they would have all had to wear a helmet, safety vest and eye protection. No exceptions.

To say they had permission to build a SET on an active train track is absurd.
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Old March 6th, 2014, 08:26 AM   #13
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

It is difficult to believe that they had permission to shoot on the private property adjacent to the track. There would be a significant safety burden imposed by CSX for even that level of access and the resultant monitoring would have prevented placing a set on active tracks. Hopefully the investigators will have instigated drug and IQ tests on the director and his staff in hopes of determining how the diminished capacity occurred.
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Old March 6th, 2014, 10:44 AM   #14
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

It's hard to believe that the decisions leading up to this were arrived at by a group of professional adults. I agree that the idea seems mind-bogglingly stupid. But stepping off the high-horse, it's also a sobering reminder of our mortality in the face of our hubris.

We are all capable of the kind of arrogant disregard that could lead to this loss of life and limb, and few believe that it could ever happen to them until it does. I, for one, will think on this tragedy the next time I consider the safety of my crew when planning for a shoot (or acting on an impulse).
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Old March 6th, 2014, 09:26 PM   #15
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Re: Camera Assistant death on the set of Midnight Rider.

It's a sad situation. It doesn't make sense though that the producer's did not get proper permits and acquire the necessary paperwork/train's schedule prior to shooting. It makes one wonder if it was a spontaneous decision to shoot the scene sort of gorilla style.
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