Just days after Slates For Sarah unveiled their latest plea for awareness of on-set safety hazards, we've gotten new word in the case of Sarah Jones. Rather than being ruled an unavoidable tragedy, someone could be held responsible for the camera operator's death on the set of Midnight Rider. And it could mean serious jail time.
Deadline reports the Wayne Superior Court of Georgia has charged Midnight Rider's filmmakers Randall Miller, Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish with Involuntary Manslaughter and Criminal Trespassing in connection with the death of 27-year-old Sarah Jones on February 20, 2014. The penalty for Criminal Trespass can carry a 12-month prison sentence, while a Manslaughter conviction could mean a 10-year incarceration.
Regarding their ties to this production, Randall Miller is the co-writer, producer and director of Midnight Rider. Miller's wife Jody Savin is the film's co-writer and producer. Jay Sedrish is Midnight Rider's unit production manager, as well as its executive producer.
A brief refresher on the tragedy of Sarah Jones: she was a well-liked and respected member of the Georgia production community, working as an assistant camera on projects like The Vampire Diaries, My Future Boyfriend and Midnight Rider. It was on a location shoot for the last of these, an Allman Brothers biopic, that Jones was killed by an oncoming train.
Last February, the production had set up to shoot on a trestle bridge, complete with apparently active train tracks. What happened next is currently under dispute, but today's report suggests what many feared. The production company, which initially blamed the train company, had not secured the proper permits to shoot on those tracks. Basically, without these permits, it is possible that no one from the train company knew those tracks would be littered with a small army of crew members. The results were atrocious. Several were injured; Sarah Jones was killed. And the crew community of which she was a part instantly arose with outcry, demanding her death not be in vain.
Activism for on-set safety has been the silver lining to this horrible tragedy. But today Jones' family and friends might find some solace in that those who allegedly created the unsafe working conditions that cost the young woman her life will be held accountable. It is expected a wrongful death lawsuit could follow, filed by Jones' surviving family members.
Her father, Richard Jones, told Deadline:
Elizabeth and I are comfortable that the authorities were both careful and meticulous in investigating and bringing charges related to the incident that took our daughter’s life. We must allow the criminal justice process to proceed unhindered. Our mission remains the same: to ensure safety on all film sets. Safety for Sarah."
It's easy to get incensed by the death of Sarah Jones, but we must remember that Randall Miller, Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish are innocent until proven guilty.
It seems safe to assume the other crew members from that night will be called to testify when this case goes to court. We'll give you more on this story as it develops. The future of Midnight Rider is currently unknown.