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Sarah Jones' parents hope 'Midnight Rider' suit brings safer film sets

Railway DisastersMoviesPublic Transportation DisastersHuman InterestSarah JonesAcademy Awards
'There is just no legitimate reason that making entertainment needs to cost a life.' -- Sarah Jones' father
Friends and colleagues mounted a social media campaign to have Sarah Jones honored during the Oscars telecast

A day after filing a lawsuit against the producers of "Midnight Rider," the parents of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones said they hope the case will highlight the need for safer film sets nationwide.

"The big purpose in all this is, we don't want this to happen again to someone else," Richard Jones, the father of Sarah Jones, said in an interview Thursday. "There is just no legitimate reason that making entertainment needs to cost a life."

On Wednesday, Richard and Elizabeth Jones  filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Pasadena-based producers of the movie -- Randall Miller and his wife, Jody Savin -- and 18 other defendants, alleging that they negligently caused their daughter's death.

Sarah Jones was killed and six crew members were injured Feb. 20 when a freight train crashed into the crew as they were filming the Gregg Allman biopic on a historic train trestle in Doctortown, Ga. Jones was struck by the train and debris from a bed that had been placed on the tracks for a dream sequence involving actor William Hurt.

The suit seeks unspecified damages and cites a various alleged safety violations. Among them are allegations that the producers did not have permission from CSX to film on the railway itself and misled the crew about that fact. The suit also says producers did not take standard safety precautions, including failing to host a safety meeting prior to filming, not having an on-site medic and not having a railway representative on site.

Richard Jones said he was heartened by the outpouring of sympathy he and his wife have received in the wake of their daughter's death. Friends and colleagues mounted an extraordinary social media campaign to have Jones honored during the Oscars telecast. Union officials also have vowed to step up safety training for film crews nationwide.

"I think this is an awakening moment for the industry,"  Jones said.

While most people understand that the industry "needs to make changes and are doing so," Jones said, "there will always be a minority of people who really won't make any changes and they need to see the dollar marks before you get their attention."

Beyond raising awareness about safety issues, Jones' parents are seeking answers about what caused their daughter's death and who is responsible.

"You have a situation where a lot of folks are blaming each other," said Atlanta attorney Jeffrey Harris, who  represents the Jones family. "The director is saying it wasn't me, it was the location manager. The location manager said, 'No, we told him no.' We've got to get to the bottom of who did what."

Prior to the lawsuit, producers of "Midnight Rider" told local union officials that they planned to resume production of the film in Los Angeles in June. 

Those plans, however, were thrown into question last month when Hurt, who was set to play Allman, pulled out of the film. Allman, an executive producer named in the Jones lawsuit, also sued the producers over their plans to resume production.

Richard Jones said he hoped that Miller and Savin would reconsider. "It is the family's desire that these producers not make this film at all," he said.

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Railway DisastersMoviesPublic Transportation DisastersHuman InterestSarah JonesAcademy Awards
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