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Massive failure in safety procedures (complete lack?) killed a crew member today.


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From Jacksonville Times Union

Member crew filming Greg Allman project struck and killed on train tracks in Jesup

Others in crew hurt at trestle over Altmaha River, investigators says

By Russ Bynum Fri, Feb 21, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

JESUP | A movie crew was working on train tracks without permission from the railroad when a freight train crashed into the production team and its equipment, killing one and injuring seven others, a sheriff’s investigator said Friday.

The Savannah-based crew was shooting footage for “Midnight Rider,” a film based on the life of singer Gregg Allman, when the crash happened Thursday afternoon. Wayne County sheriff’s detectives were working Friday to piece together how and why it happened.

The deadly collision took place at a railroad trestle that crosses the Altamaha River. The tracks, owned by CSX Railroad, cross private land owned by forest-products company Rayonier, which has a nearby paper mill. Joe Gardner, the lead detective on the case, said the crew had Rayonier’s permission to film on its property next to the train tracks.

“CSX has told me they were aware they were out there, but they did not have permission to be on the train tracks,” Gardner told reporters.

The train struck and killed a woman identified by the sheriff’s department as 27-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Jones of Atlanta. Gardner said he didn’t know what job she performed on the film crew. Seven others were injured, one seriously enough to be taken by helicopter to a Savannah hospital. Further information on their conditions was not immediately available Friday.

Trespassing onto railroad tracks is illegal under Georgia law and punishable as a misdemeanor.

Production of “Midnight Rider,” starring actor William Hurt as the Allman Brothers singer in his later years and All-American rejects vocalist Tyson Ritter as a young Allman, began this month in coastal Georgia. The film is based on Allman’s 2012 memoir, “My Cross to Bear,” with production based at Meddin Studios in Savannah.

The film studio Friday referred calls to a Los Angeles publicist, Nadine Jolson, who did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment but emailed a brief statement.

“All of us on the production team are devastated by the tragic accident that happened today,” the studio’s statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our crew member.”

CSX issued a statement saying the railroad company was “deeply saddened” by the crash and cooperating with investigators. It provided no further details other than to say the train involved was traveling to Savannah from Memphis, Tenn.

A CSX spokeswoman, Kristin Seay, declined to comment further and would not confirm that the film crew had no permission from the railroad to be working on the train tracks.

Authorities provided few details about the collision. Gardner said it wasn’t clear if crew members were actually on the trestle bridging the river or just on the tracks at the river’s edge. He said the train smashed some of the crew’s equipment, and it’s possible some of the injuries were caused by flying debris. Among the items found on the tracks was what appeared to be a mattress for a bed, Gardner said.

It also wasn’t clear if the film crew was waiting to film a train or was caught unaware by one approaching, Gardner said.

“That’s a very active train track,” he said. “There’s probably anywhere from up to 10 trains a day that go through on those tracks.”

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I've worked on tracks before.. And we had a railroad personal on the shoot.  This guy had a horn, and said that if he had to blow that horn, he was going to be pissed.  Which meant that we needed to get OFF the tracks faster.


This is an awful event indeed.

As have I. 2 indie movies that had train-related plots. We were escorted every single second, and the train rep was absolutely in charge. If he said move, you dropped everything and you moved, period.  I'm happy to say we didn't have any accidents on those two films. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

some thoughts on Safety by Gary Dunham:


The tragic death of Sarah Jones has touched every member of the filmmaking community, uniting them, not only in grief, anger and disbelief, but also in the necessity of ending the practices that lead to such tragic results.


The DGA as well as a few locals have issued statements distancing themselves from any responsibility regarding the safety of the crew, stating that safety is the responsibility of the employer. The employer’s attorneys will no doubt argue that they hire people to oversee production and see to it that safety regulations are upheld. We’ve all seen this movie before… endless dialogue, meetings, committees, and the inevitable gridlock, the end result being business as usual until the next tragic event.


It now appears that the production company did not have permission to film on the train trestle. Sadness and grief is turning into outrage and anger… and rightly so if it turns out to be true. If it is true, unlike most of the tragic events in the past, there will be a person to blame… the unfocused anger against the “way things are” will be focused on the person responsible.


Unless there is a get out of jail free email from someone higher up on the food chain the UPM is ultimately responsible and may go to prison. The investigation will reveal the relevant facts regarding the presence of the film crew on the trestle. I was surprised and saddened when I learned that I had worked with this UPM many years ago. As the details of the events of that day unfold it becomes, if it is at all possible, even sadder.


If it turns out that there is a responsible party identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, where does the issue of safety on the set go? Will a conviction of a member of the production team change, what has become, industry standards and practices of unsafe working conditions on film sets? I’m not so sure it will.


As Richard Lightstone’s post recommends. We need to “… rally for a real industry wide change…”


  +++++++++++++ he proposed an amendment to the L600 constitution that he justified here:

The thinking behind Sarah’s Amendment.

Having read the comments to my previous post regarding a change to the bylaws of Local 600 (and hopefully many other locals), I feel the need to clarify the intent of the proposed bylaws change. There seem to be three major concerns; the investigation, the lawsuit and whether or not it is appropriate for a local to engage in litigation on the behalf of its membership.


First, the investigation clause.

The term “investigation” seems to have different connotations to different folks. It was not the intent to form CSI600 and have them racing out to the scene in a black Suburban sifting through evidence and getting in pissing contests with the FBI and local law enforcement. To investigate is simply to gather all the pertinent facts. The union is entitled to OSHA reports, police reports and any other relevant data surrounding an accident involving one of its members. Why? To compile relevant data that will help in crafting stronger safety guidelines.


Why the Executive Director, Business agent? Because they have the resources available to gather factual information quicker than those of us using social media and unreliable news sources that understand little about the our business and have an irritating knack of sensationalizing stories at the expense of facts.


Why the President and National Officers? The National Officers are elected by the membership to represent the memberships interest. In Local 600 the President is responsible for all communication with outside agencies. The other Officers not only represent different geographical regions of the United States, but also control all expenditures of the local.


Why a written statement to the membership? Education. To separate fact from fiction, and to answer questions any member may have. To keep safety issues current on the set.


Why make it mandatory by placing the resolution in the bylaws? Too assure that all incidents are communicated to the membership for the same reasons as requiring a written statement. Reading the various comments these last few days it is clear that many members have no idea about the frequency or severity of the accidents that have occurred on sets… much less the facts surrounding the causes.


Secondly, the lawsuit clause. To put it succinctly… it demonstrates how seriously we take the safety and well being of our membership. If any producer injures or kills one of our members as a result of callous and negligent decision making, we will nail his/her hide to a wall. You will NOT get away with hurting one of us as has happened so many times in the past.


To be clear, the resolution specifically states the lawsuit must be initiated if and only if an accident that does harm to one of our members is “…the result of negligence or unlawful behavior on the part of the Producer or a representative thereof…” In other words, we, the membership, realize that at times our work environment can be dangerous, and accidents can and do happen… that is a risk we accept. If all precautions, as outlined in the various safety guidelines, federal, state, local, and contractual are met… we learn and move on.


There is an intentional grey area in the language… it’s the term “negligence”. Unlawful… breaking the rules is straight forward, but negligence can be subjective. The decision to move forward with a lawsuit would rest in the hands of the Executive Director and the National Officers. As a case in point, the death of Brent Hershman did not result from an unlawful act on the part of the producer, but a case could be made that his death was a result of negligence for not being concerned about the effects of sleep deprivation.


What if the local began legal proceedings against the producers of Pleasantville for wrongful death? If we prevailed the abusive hours would have stopped immediately. If we failed abusive hours would become a liability to the producers if any subsequent accidents occurred. The message to the producers… The safety of our members is not a matter of negotiations. Period.


It will only take one lawsuit to convince the producers we have had enough.


The final point… is it appropriate for a local to sue on behalf of one of its members. The short answer, yes. We do it all the time. And what about the IA? The IA negotiates our contracts. There are more than 350 locals that make up the IA if any affiliate local fights for its members it makes their job that much easier.




wonder if anybody in 695 will pick up on this, when there is something like a sound union again.


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