clear
Monday May 4th, 2015 6:05AM

Death of Ga. film worker 'senseless,' father says

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) - Less than two months after his daughter was killed on a film set in southeast Georgia, Richard Jones grapples with waves of unexpected grief, such as a day last week when a riverside walk at home in South Carolina took him past a railroad bridge.

``The train came and I lost it,'' Jones said, tearing up at the painfully fresh memory. ``It just hits and it's hard to say when it's going to come.''

A freight train crossing the Altamaha River on Feb. 20 killed 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones as it plowed into a film crew in rural Wayne County. It was the first day of shooting ``Midnight Rider,'' a movie based on the life of Gregg Allman, starring William Hurt as the Allman Brothers Band singer.

Jones' parents told The Associated Press on Wednesday the film's producers needlessly put workers at risk. They have hired an Atlanta law firm to help them find answers and hold someone accountable.

``They did so many wrong things on so many levels, it's just unbelievable,'' said Richard Jones. ``This should not have happened. It's senseless.''

Authorities say Hurt, director Randall Miller and the crew were shooting on a railroad trestle when the train came speeding toward them at 58 mph. The train smashed into a bed the crew had placed on the tracks. Six other crew members were injured, either by the train or by flying shrapnel from the bed.

Elizabeth Jones learned her daughter was dead from a close co-worker and the director called later that day.

``He was very upset,'' she said. ``He kept repeating, `I'm sorry, I'm sorry.' But he wouldn't say anything else.''

Sheriff's investigators say the production crew had permission to be on private property surrounding the tracks, but not on the tracks, which are owned by CSX Railroad. Results of their investigation will soon go to prosecutors, who are weighing possible criminal charges. The National Transportation Safety Board and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are also investigating.

``I think when everything's done and said, it will be clear the railroad never told them they could be on the tracks,'' said Joe Gardner, the sheriff's lead investigator on the train collision.

Donnie Dixon, a Savannah attorney hired by Miller, did not immediately return a phone call. The director and his company, Unclaimed Freight Productions, shelved production a week after the crash. No plans have been announced to resume shooting.

Jones' parents said their daughter, the middle of three children, was drawn to filmmaking from an early age. Young Sarah loved to shoot home movies starring her younger sister and the family dog.

As a college student in South Carolina, she landed an internship on the TV series ``Army Wives,'' her parents said, and she loved it so much she offered to stick around for free. Paid work followed on ``The Vampire Diaries'' and other productions after she settled in Atlanta. As a camera assistant, the job required Jones to carry large pieces of equipment that seemed outsized for her slender, 5-foot-6 frame. Co-workers nicknamed her The Ant.

An adventurous traveler, Jones was planning a trip overseas with her mother after shooting ended on ``Midnight Rider'' and had begun writing a script for a film project of her own. Now her parents are collecting donations to fund filmmaking programs in high schools.

Jones' death, meanwhile, has galvanized behind-the-scenes workers on TV and movie crews to push for improved safety standards on film sets. Their outpouring of grief led to the Academy Awards briefly showing an onscreen banner with Jones' name and photo during its Oscars broadcast March 3.

``She was planning her future, planning her life ahead of her and all of a sudden it's taken away,'' Elizabeth Jones said. ``She had no clue, no idea.''
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 week ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 2 weeks ago )
Clinton kicks off 2016 campaign online, heads next to Iowa
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champi...
7:56PM ( 3 weeks ago )
Hall, White, Jefferson schools recognized nationally for use of technology
Three school districts in northeast Georgia - Hall, White, and Jefferson - have received national recognition for their use use of innovative technologies. They earned top spots in the Center for Digital Education's and the National School Boards Association's 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey.
By Staff
1:00PM ( 3 weeks ago )
US Capitol lockdown lifted after man fatally shoots himself
WASHINGTON (AP) — A precautionary lockdown of the U.S. Capitol was lifted after about two hours Saturday following a suicide by a man carrying a protest sign.The man died after shooting himself on the...
6:15PM ( 3 weeks ago )