Jury awards $3.9M to family of film worker killed by train
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A jury awarded $3.9 million today to the family of a movie worker killed on a Georgia railroad bridge in 2014, finding the railroad's owner shared in the blame for the deadly freight train collision even though the film crew was trespassing.
The parents of Sarah Jones sued CSX Transportation in Chatham County State Court, saying the railroad shared in the blame for their daughter's death. The 27-year-old camera assistant died in the crash Feb. 20, 2014, during the first day of shooting "Midnight Rider," an ill-fated movie about Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band.
"CSX is deeply sympathetic to the terrible loss suffered by the family of Ms. Sarah Jones, but respectfully disagrees with the conclusions reached by the jury today and will appeal," said Rob Doolittle, a spokesman at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company.
The film's director, Randall Miller, served a year in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing charges. Jones' parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones of Columbia, South Carolina, said CSX also failed to take precautions that could have averted the crash on a trestle spanning the Altamaha River near Jesup in southeast Georgia.
The jury in Savannah heard testimony during the civil trial that two CSX trains rolled through while the movie crew stood on both sides of the tracks within an hour before the crash, but the operators of those trains never called dispatchers to alert them. Jurors also were shown a CSX policy that train operators are expected to immediately report trespassers on its tracks and rights of way.
Jeffrey Harris, the Jones family's attorney, also noted that the train's brakes weren't applied until after the locomotive struck a hospital bed the filmmakers had placed across the tracks. Actor William Hurt, hired to play Allman, had been lying in the bed before the train came upon the crew at 53 mph. Hurt escaped unharmed.
Six crew members were injured by flying shrapnel from the bed. Jones was run over.