Midnight Rider Film Subject of OSHA Hearing


By JoAnn Merrigan

Savannah –

The now defunct Midnight Rider film and whether cast and crew members were deliberately put in harm’s is the subject of a hearing that started today in Savannah.

 

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)is holding a hearing because the company that was making the film, Unclaimed Freight, is fighting the nearly $75,000 levied in fines by OSHA last year.  The fine is against Film Allman LLC (the company set up to make the film.)

 

The director of the film Randall Miller, recently pled guilty in a criminal proceeding in connection with the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones.  Jones was killed by a train on a trestle near Jesup in February of 2014.  Miller agreed to serve his sentence in the Wayne County jail but was present the OSHA hearing along  with his attorneys.

 

It’s not clear why Miller is fighting the OSHA fine in lieu of his recent guilty plea.  However,in exchange for his plea in a criminal proceeding, Miller’s wife, Jody Savin, had criminal charges dropped against her and is presumably still running their film production company.

 

Today  an attorney for the U.S. Labor Department (OSHA is within that department) said “we’re here today because of this workplace tragedy.”

 

She said when it came to the production company it “wasn’t a matter of intention disregard for safety but just how intentional it really was.”

 

Attorneys for Miller indicated that he believed he and others involved in the production had  permission to be near and on the tracks because it had been granted by Rayonier which owned much of the land near the Doctortown Trestle.  “They had no reason to believe there was a problem,” said Don Samuels, an attorney for Miller from Atlanta.

 

But Charles Baxter, the location manager on the film later testified that CSX Railroad had emailed him the morning of the accident and said they could not support his request. “I took that to mean we did not have permission to be on the tracks,” he said.

 

Baxter also told the attorney for the U.S. Labor Department he did not go with Miller and others to the shoot that day saying”I knew what they were going to do, i.e. try to get on the tracks without permission and I didn’t want to be a part of it.”

Later Joyce Gilliard, a hairdresser who was injured that day testified that no one the crew received safety information indicating a train may come by.  She said they were never told they were on a live track and that was no crew medic at the scene.  Gilliard said that two trains came by within about fifteen minutes of one another.  She said then a third came by and she fought for her life trying to hang on to the side of the trestle but that the force of the “roaring train” pulled her arm back and snapped it.  Gilliard said she never told anyone of her concerns, something she “now regrets and has to live with every day.”

 

The OSHA hearing is expected to last several days.

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