Randall Miller, director of a bio-pic about musician Gregg Allman, pleaded guilty to charges of criminal trespassing and involuntary manslaughter in Georgia’s Chatham County Superior Court on March 9. In return for the guilty plea – which results in two years’ jail time, eight years’ of probation and a $20,000 fine for Miller – prosecutors agreed to drop charges against his wife and business partner, Jody Savin. Executive producer Jay Sedrish, also pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing and was placed on 10 years’ probation.
A year earlier, on Feb. 20, camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed and eight other workers were injured while trying to escape an oncoming freight train during the filming of a scene for “Midnight Rider,” a biopic based on Allman’s life.
The incident occurred during the filming of a scene on the tracks of the Doctortown train trestle in rural Georgia that spans the Altamaha River.
During filming, crew members saw a CSX train heading toward them. They immediately started exiting the tracks, trying to remove set pieces and get off the trestle before the train reached them. However, they were unable to outrun the oncoming train.
Jones was killed and eight other crew members were injured by debris when the train hit a hospital bed being used as a set piece, according to OSHA. Witnesses said that the bed hit Jones and caused her to be pushed into the path of the oncoming train, which was traveling at 55 mph.
“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.
OSHA cited the production company, Allmann LLC, for one willful violation and one serious safety violation, alleging that the company exposed crew members to struck-by and fall hazards.
“Employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers’ health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception,” OSHA Administrator David Michaels said when OSHA issued the violations in August 2014. “It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle.”
CSX Transportation, which owns the bridge, reportedly denied filmmakers access to the bridge, which is what allowed the criminal charges to move forward. Under Georgia law, people can be charged with involuntary manslaughter if someone is killed during the commission of a misdemeanor like trespassing.