One Year Later: ‘Midnight Rider’ Trial Looms; Sarah’s Parents’ Special Request

It’s been a year since 27 year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed and several others injured on the set of Midnight Rider on a train trestle in Jesup, Ga on Feb. 20th. Wayne County has issued 250 jury summons for the March 9 criminal trespass and manslaughter trial for those charged: the film’s director, producer, executive producer/unit production manager and first assistant director.

Several crew members will be called as witnesses, but Deadline has learned that prosecutors won’t be calling star William Hurt to the stand. The Oscar-winning Hurt, who sources said had developed a good on-set rapport with Jones, was also on the tracks that day, though he escaped physically unharmed.

As defense lawyers and the District Attorney’s office prepare for trial, Jones’ parents want the industry to remember not only Sarah, but also the other crew members injured a year ago. “This has been painful for us, but we aren’t the only ones hurting,” Richard Jones said. “Others on that track were hurt that day and are in a lot of pain, too. We want to make sure people remember them as well.”

According to a federal report, the train accident injured eight other crew members and sent three to the hospital (one is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder).

RELATED: ‘Midnight Rider’ Crew Kept In Dark Over Safety, Federal Investigation Reveals

Most of the injured crew members have not spoken to the press. Some have filed suit against the production and supervising crew who were criminally charged. Among them are hair stylist Joyce Gillard, whose arm was badly broken as she clung onto the side of the railroad track as the train roared by. Make-up artist Antonyia Verna also joined Gillard in the civil complaint also to be compensated for “serious physical injuries” PTSD and loss of income.

Still photographer Izabeau Giannakopoulos also filed a civil suit and suffers from “serious injuries” of the back and neck and is unable to work, according to her lawyer. It was Giannakopoulos who dragged director Miller off the ground and out of the way of the oncoming train.

Richard and Elizabeth Jones told Deadline that they will be spending the one-year anniversary with their daughter’s other “family” — the crew of The Vampire Diaries at that show’s set in Atlanta.

“Sarah’s extended family and her many friends are also in a lot of pain over this (one-) year anniversary,” said her father. Sarah Jones was a crew member on both Diaries and the spin-off The Originals for several years.

Her parents and cinematographers and mechanics unions in Atlanta have asked the entire industry to observe a moment of silence tomorrow. They also asked that TV and film crews photograph safety messages on their slates in a show of unity across the entertainment industry called the “Spirit of Sarah.”

In the year since Jones’ death, set safety in her name has become a rallying cry across the industry, from new safety apps to Facebook pages in her name, including the popular “Slates for Sarah.” The first shot of the day across film sets  is now called the “Jonesy” in honor of the young woman who slapped the slate before shots.

“Elizabeth and I so grateful for the outpouring of support,” said Richard Jones.





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