The U.S. Department of Labor has formally cited Midnight Rider production company Film Allman for “one willful and one serious safety violation” in the February 20 tragedy that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones.
“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.” It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle.”
Jones was killed and several other crew members injured on the first day of filming on the Gregg Allman biopic in rural Georgia. The crew had set a hospital bed on the Doctortown trestle train tracks for filming when a train approached and hit the bed, sending debris flying. Filmmakers did not have permission from railroad company CSX, whose tracks were accessed for the shoot. The DOL citation named Film Allman, the production company set up by director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin for the film, for two violations of exposing employees to hazards.
“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. Last month Miller, Savin, and exec producer Jay Sedrish were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing by prosecutors in Wayne County, GA. Miller and Savin entered not guilty pleas and Sedrish is expected to do the same this month.
The first “willful” citation acknowledges the production’s “failure to provide safety measures to protect employees from moving trains” with “intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.”
The “serious” citation is for exposing crew to fall hazards while working on the Doctortown train trestle, which lacked safety guardrails or other fall protection measures. According to the DOJ, “a serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.” The company has 15 days to pay a proposed $74,900 fine or contest the violations.
Earlier this week lawyers on behalf of Film Allman sued the production’s insurer over $1.6 million in denied insurance claims. The suit argues that director Miller’s injury from the February accident and subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder rendered him unable to continue filming, entitling Film Allman to the claim amount per their insurance agreement.