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Midnight Rider: OSHA upholds fines for fatal train accident

Sarah Jones’ death ‘was entirely preventable,’ federal agency says

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Wayne County Sheriff's Office

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has upheld its fines against the producers of Midnight Rider, the biopic about Southern rocker Gregg Allman that suspended production last year after a train accident left one crew member dead and eight others injured.

Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed while trying to escape an oncoming freight train near Jesup, Georgia, on Feb. 20, 2014, while filming a scene on a live track without proper permission.

OSHA cited Film Allman LLC in August 2014 for one willful and one serious safety violation for exposing employees to struck-by and fall hazards. Producers contested the fines of nearly $75,000, but Judge Sharon D. Calhoun upheld them Tuesday.

“Bad management decisions have real and lasting consequences, and when those decisions involve safety, the consequences can be tragic,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator for the Southeast, in a statement after the ruling. “The death of Sarah Jones is particularly disheartening because it was entirely preventable.”

Petermeyer added that the producers “blatantly disregarded” the safety of the cast and crew. “They were fully aware that the railroad tracks were live, and that they did not have permission to film there,” he said. “While yesterday’s decision cannot correct or reverse the terrible events of February 2014, we hope that it will serve as a reminder to the film industry that safety has an important, necessary role on every set and in every workplace.”

Midnight Rider director Randall Miller is currently serving a two-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in March.

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