'Midnight Rider' suspends production after fatal train accident
Production on Midnight Rider, a biopic about rock guitarist Gregg Allman, has been suspended following a tragic train accident last Thursday which left one crew member dead and several others injured, multiple outlets are reporting.
In a statement obtained by Variety, production company Film Allman, LLC confirmed the suspension: “In light of the tragic loss, we have decided to put the production of Midnight Rider on hold.”
Second camera assistant Sarah Elizabeth Jones, 27, was struck and killed by a train as she helped stage a scene for the film on train tracks near Savannah, GA on Feb. 20. Jones and other staff employed by Open Road Films and Georgia-based production company Meddin Studios were gathered on the tracks on the first day of production when a train operated by CSX Transportation en route from Memphis to Savannah unexpectedly arrived and fatally struck Jones. Approximately seven others were injured, according to Wayne County authorities.
Director Randall Miller’s production company Unclaimed Freight Productions has not responded to multiple requests for comment. A Los Angeles-based publicist for the company released a message of condolences Friday, stating, “All of us on the production team are devastated by the tragic accident that happened today. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our crew member.”
A online petition to include Jones, a South Carolina native, in Sunday’s Oscars Memoriam tribute has earned nearly 38,000 signatures as of Thursday morning. Friends and family of Jones — who worked as a crew member on shows like Army Wives — offered condolences, photos and memories of the young woman on a Facebook page titled “Slates for Sarah.”
“She was an awesome person,” camera assistant Tony Summerlin said of Jones in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “She was very organized. She was really great.”
Summerlin and Jones were in the process of assembling a “dream sequence” with the use of a hospital bed on the tracks, said Summerlin. A meeting had been held to review safety, Summerlin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but he was not aware of whether a permit had been secured on the tracks.
“As a camera person you don’t show up and ask, ‘where’s the permit?’ You’re trying to make a movie,” he said. “You’re thinking safety but you’re thinking that’s someone else’s job.”
Two trains had passed by the crew during their work on the sequence, Summerlin confirmed. Then a third train appeared, “going full speed.”
“It seemed like it took half a mile to stop,” he said of the train. “We were running. She said, ‘I can’t carry all this stuff.’ I said, ‘Throw it. Throw it down.'”
But Jones was unable to move in time, said Summerlin, who shared that the two were “face to face up to the last second.”
An investigation of the incident is currently being conducted by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.
Open Road Films still plans to distribute the film domestically, EW can confirm, starring lead actress Eliza Dushku. Actors Tyson Ritter and William Hurt will play Allman in his younger and present-day incarnations, respectively.