Randall Miller, perhaps best known for Savannah(2013) and Bottle Shock(2008), has become the first director to be jailed for involuntary manslaughter caused by an on-set fatality.
An Overview of the Tragic Incident
The director of the proposed Allman Brothers Band biographic film – Midnight Rider, has accepted punishment for criminal trespassing and accidental manslaughter in relation to the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones. She was struck and killed by a freight train while the crew was shooting in Georgia, in February 2014. She was hit by the edge of the fuel tank and was run over by the train. Sarah’s death startled every safety campaigner in Hollywood, with a number of initiatives since, introduced to better the conditions and encourage people to report such operators.
The freight track that was being used for the shooting, is one of the busiest in Wayne County. Miller and his crew were well aware that the track was in use. Miller also admitted to a court in Georgia that he had not attained any legal permission to use the track and thought that it was not his job to do so. Even though he claimed that the producers had every permission to use the land from its owner, the rail operator CSX later said that they had denied the teams’ request twice, and never gave them the permission to use the track.
Miller has been sentenced to two years in jail and eight years of probation. The director was fined $20,000 as a part of his sentence. He will also complete 360 hours of community service. From the rest of the crew, executive produce Jay Sedrish has also accepted 10 years probation with no jail time whereas film-producer and Miller’s wife, Jody Savin, is no longer facing any such charges.
The biopic movie, Midnight Rider itself is unlikely to be released ever. The lead singer from the ABB band, Mr. Allman, has sued the producer in order to prevent any process of reviving the movie. Although a settlement was made between the two later, the details of the court-settlement have not been disclosed.
Similar Court Cases
The case is not one of its kind to hit Hollywood. In 1982, director John Landis and four associates were also charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of actor Vic Morrow and two other child actors due to a helicopter crash while shooting for The Twilight Zone – a television series.
Also in 1993, actor Brandon Lee died on the set when the gun that was being used while filming surprisingly turned out to be actually loaded with live ammunition. However, the actor who killed Lee on the set of “The Crow”, was not charged.
After the Sentencing Hearing
After Miller’s sentencing, Sarah’s parents told the media that it was all they wanted. They said that they were never seeking revenge but were always looking for accountability. Judge Anthony Harrison called it ‘a tragic accident that could have been prevented’. He requested Jones’ parents to give some meaning to this incident and contribute to the message of safety to the industry.
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