'Midnight Rider' cited and fined by U.S. gov't for workplace fatality

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Image Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Labor has cited the production company filming the Greg Allman biopic Midnight Rider, connected to the death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones in February. Jones was killed by a moving train during filming in Wayne County, Ga. Today, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the producers with one willful and one serious safety violation for exposing employees to hazards and recommended a penalty totaling $74,900. Eight other crew members were injured in the incident.

“Employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers’ health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels, in a statement. “It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle.”

“Their failure to develop a safety plan to prevent such hazards, including obtaining permission from the rail owner to use the tracks for filming, led to the death of one crew member and injuries to eight other employees,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s Regional Administrator for the Southeast.

The film’s failure to provide safety measures to protect employees from moving trains resulted in the willful citation, which represents “plain indifference to worker safety and health.” The serious safety violation was issued due to the lack of safety equipment and protection measures for crew exposed to obvious hazards, like working on the active train trestle.

Last month, Midnight Rider filmmakers Randall Miller and Jody Savin pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. In a statement released after they posted bond, they said, “In the weeks and months that follow when the true facts of the events are revealed, people will know that this was not a crime: we never had criminal intent; we would never knowingly or intentionally put anybody’s safety at risk. This was a horrible tragedy and a horrific accident.”

Earlier this week, Film Allman LLC filed suit against its insurance company, New York Marine, claiming that they’d failed their obligation of paying for the production’s $1.6 million losses caused of the tragic accident.

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