Jury sees video of film crew flee­ing train be­fore crash

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

The civil trial of a rail­road com­pany ac­cused of neg­li­gence in the 2014 death of a movie worker opened Tues­day with ju­rors watch­ing video of the film crew flee­ing a freight train mo­ments be­fore the fa­tal crash on a Ge­or­gia rail­road bridge. Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old cam­era as­sis­tant, was killed on the first day of shoot­ing “Mid­night Rider,” a movie based on the life of All­man Brothers Band singer Gregg All­man. Jones’ par­ents are su­ing CSX Trans­porta­tion, say­ing the train’s en­gi­neer should have braked and two other trains that passed the film crew along­side the tracks in the hour be­fore the crash should have called in a warn­ing. Six other film work­ers were in­jured in the col­li­sion on Feb. 20, 2014. Ac­tor Wil­liam Hurt, who was on the bridge in the role of All­man, es­caped un­in­jured. Hurt sat out­side the court­room for a time Tues­day but was not called to tes­tify. It was un­known when or if he would take the wit­ness stand. The freight train was trav­el­ing 56 mph when it struck a hos­pi­tal bed the movie crew had placed across the tracks, spray­ing crew mem­bers with shrapnel. The video, taken by a crew mem­ber, did not show the fa­tal col­li­sion but ended with a loud crunch as the screen went dark. “Peo­ple are lit­er­ally run­ning for their lives and in­stead of hit­ting the brakes, they de­cided to plow on through,” Jef­frey Harris, an at­tor­ney for Jones’ par­ents, told the jury in his open­ing state­ment Tues­day. CSX at­tor­ney Jay Trayn­ham told ju­rors the en­gi­neer, Michael Ryan, was afraid to ap­ply the train’s emer­gency brakes for fear of caus­ing a de­rail­ment that could have top­pled its pay­load of ship­ping con­tain­ers onto the crew. He blamed the crash on “Mid­night Rider” pro­duc­tion man­agers, who had been de­nied per­mis­sion to film on the train tracks twice - each time in writ­ing. Ran­dall Miller, the film’s di­rec­tor, spent a year in jail after plead­ing guilty to charges of in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter and crim­i­nal tres­pass­ing. “CSX was placed in a sit­u­a­tion, ”Trayn­ham said. “Michael Ryan did the best he could do ... in a split sec­ond be­cause some­body stuck a bed on the rail­road track.”Two crew mem­bers tes­ti­fied they as­sumed film­mak­ers had CSX’s per­mis­sion to film on the tracks. Iz­abeau Gian­nakopou­los, who shot be­hind-the-scenes pho­tos and video for the pro­duc­tion and made the video of the flee­ing crew, said she never felt she was tres­pass­ing or in any dan­ger un­til a co-worker started yelling for the group to get off the tracks as the train ap­proached. “You’re ask­ing if I feel de­ceived by my su­pe­ri­ors?” Gian­nakopou­los replied to a CSX at­tor­ney’s question. “Yes, I do.” The jury also saw video­taped tes­ti­mony of op­er­a­tors of the two CSX trains that passed the film crew safely be­fore the group ven­tured onto the train tres­tle span­ning the Al­tamaha River near the town of Je­sup. The train op­er­a­tors said it’s com­mon to see peo­ple along­side rail­road tracks tak­ing pho­tos and video and they didn’t see the crew mem­bers pos­ing any im­me­di­ate dan­ger. “We didn’t know they were tres­pass­ing,” said CSX en­gi­neer Stan­ley Craig. “We just thought they were tak­ing pic­tures.”The crash left the “Mid­night Rider” movie in limbo. All­man died in May.

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