Crew Member on Greg Allman Biopic ‘Midnight Rider’ Killed During Train Mishap

Crew Member on Greg Allman Biopic 'Midnight Rider' Killed During Train Mishap

A dream-sequence being shot with a mattress placed on the trestle went horribly wrong when a freighter arrived unexpectedly

A female camera operator's assistant was killed Thursday and seven other people were injured when a train unexpectedly bore down on a crew doing camera tests for “Midnight Rider,” the Greg Allman biopic shooting in Georgia, a law enforcement source confirmed to TheWrap.

Identities of the victims were not immediately released. About 20 people were on the set in Wayne County, Ga., many of them local hires out of Savannah; with shooting not scheduled to officially begin until Monday, it was unlikely that any cast members were present.

randall.millerLocal officials said the crew – which included director Randall Miller (“Bottle Shock”) – had placed a mattress on a railroad bridge while filming a dream sequence when a train arrived unexpectedly. Though the crew was expecting two local trains, a third freighter's warning whistle gave them less than a minute to act, an eyewitness told Variety.

Miller (left) and a still photographer scrambled to remove the bed while the rest of the crew rushed off the tracks. A second-camera assistant was struck and killed by the train, while debris from the exploding bed injured others, who were rushed to local hospitals.

The witness also said Miller had fallen on the tracks before the train arrived and that the still photographer pulled him off, saving his life.

Also read: William Hurt to Play Gregg Allman in Biopic ‘Midnight Rider’

A spokeswoman for the production company, Unclaimed Freight Productions, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.

Train operator CSX issued a statement: “CSX is deeply saddened by a tragedy that occurred late today on a CSX rail bridge in Doctortown, Ga., and is cooperating fully with authorities as they investigate. Initial reports indicate that at least three people were injured, one fatally. CSX personnel are working with first responders to meet the needs of those injured. A train was en route from Memphis to Savannah when the incident occurred.”

“Midnight Rider” stars William Hurt, Tyson Ritter, Wyatt Russell and Eliza Dushku. The film is being distributed by Open Road Films in the U.S.

  • Bob

    It doesn't take a minute to step off of train track… something seriously messed up happened here.

    • Craig Sutcliffe

      That's definitely possible. Although crew safety is the highest regard, they may have decided to try and remove the equipment as well, which isn't a good idea at all in such a situation. The assistant might have tripped in a hurry and got her foot stuck. Others went back to help, but were unable to get her off. The director also tripped in the process coming back to the tracks, but was pulled off just in time. And then of course the debris from the minor explosion for the injuried.

      Less than a minute to act is like milliseconds in such a situation.

    • fairportfan

      See “Marc”‘s comment right above yours.

      Apparently his reading skills are superior to yours – they were on a bridge.

      Over water.

      Also note that apparently they were there illegally, having been denied permission to film on the property. Somebody's going to get his wedding tackle in a crack over that.

      • AntPad

        Meddin Studios’ Creative Director said today's shoot on the trestle was coordinated with CSX Railroad and The Sheriff's Office confirmed that the crew had both companies’ permission to film.

        • leon gurpspy

          it doesn't change the fact that bob is right in saying that “something seriously messed up happened here.”

          • fairportfan

            Sounds like someone didn't understand that there are scheduled freights and then there are “local” or “way freights” (sometimes known as “peddlers” in railroad slang) that are basically unscheduled; they start out with a consist of cars to be delivered to industries along the line and they pick up cars along the way.

            They knew about the scheduled trains, they didn't realise they needed to watch out for the locals.

            Personally, unless they absolutely HAD to shoot on that particular bridge – it has some story significance and it's recognisable, say – i'd have arranged to find a bridge on a branchline that the railroad was willing to shut down for a day or so.

            Shooting on a bridge (where there's no easy quick escape) on an active line is a Bad Idea – it could easily be a Stupid Idea.

            TBH, i find it amazing that CSX gave them clearance to do the shoot on the bridge – assuming that they actually made it clear just what they were planning to be doing. Or they may have exceeded their permissions, possibly misunderstanding what CSX had authorised/promised.

  • Marc

    This happened on a bridge, some people are saying, “It doesn't take a minute to step off of train track,” well it does if you're on a bridge. most of the people jumped into the water anyway. The initial report was that there were about 15 kids playing on the railroad bridge… I work for the RR and just got off work… also the film crew had been denied permission to film on or near the track but they did anyway.

    • Robert

      It is very unfortunate some Hollywood Hipster's decision to ignore their lack of permission to film ended up getting someone killed. Hope her family sues the Director and everyone else involved in making this movie

      • Dani

        pfft why should EVERYONE involved in the movie be held accountable for one person's poor judgment? Just to get more money? That's so ridiculous. It is disgusting to sue just to receive a huge payout when someone dies. No one deserves a brand new car or a new kitchen just because a family member died. That's just sick and wrong.

        • JGISD

          Only one person actually flew that plane into the World Trade Center. Why should anyone expect reparations just because their loved one and their financial future were pulled out from underneath them?

          Take your sorry Ayn Rand “serve-the-self” ass out of here. You are an insult to humanity.

          • Robert

            Good point J but the name calling at the end diminishes the importance of your point. You should apologize to Dani

        • Robert

          Someone died because of the gross negligence of the people making this movie, the company needs to suffer a harsh financial loss and possibly criminal prosecution. Losing a family in this way is sick and wrong

      • Kevin

        According to some reports they did have permission and had coordinated with CSX to be on the bridge at that time, only two trains were supposed to cross, it was an unexpected third train after they had set up.

    • MisterManReturns

      You are making stuff up. The crew had permission. Every production has a location manager who handles these details. There is no way that a production company would put crew on a train trestle at such as risk, without permission. It won't be the film that is sued, but the entity giving permission.

      • JGISD

        It will take awhile to sort out the facts, but no railroad company is going to grant permission to film on their property without having at least one representative present. Considering they were on a bridge and exposed to significant danger, there would have been intermittent closure of train traffic for the entire time that crew was on the tracks. The contract with the train company would have forbidden filming without it. Any location manager in the world knows better than to allow filming without those safeguards in place, and they weren't in place. Someone screwed up.

        • MisterManReturns

          I know – you should read everything that I've written in here. I am a location manager.

          EDIT: Local gov't is saying that they had permission. I responded elsewhere, exactly what you've said.

        • fairportfan

          Of course, they DIDN'T have permission to shoot on the tracks – or, i'm guessing, on the CSX right-of-way.

      • fairportfan

        Are you saying that nobody ever shoots without permissions and clearance, or never exceeds the limits of what they have permission to shoot?

        • MisterManReturns

          No, and you know that's not what I said. I am a location manager, and have been for 25 years. I have made several posts in here. The gov't has said that permission was granted. I didn't state what the film company did or didn't do, but the permission was granted, as opposed to what was said above.

          • fairportfan

            Permission was granted, yes.

            But permission to do what?

            If there wasn't a railroad safety rep on location, and trains were running normally, then i'd say that quite possibly they were exceeding the limits of what they had permission to do, and CSX had no idea they were going to be up on that bridge.

            And that's what i was getting at with my question.

          • fairportfan

            Actually, you did say it:

            There is no way that a production company would put crew on a train trestle at such as risk, without permission.

            And, no they did not have permission to shoot on the tracks – they had permission to shoot on land owned by Rayoneir that the tracks cross, not to shoot on the tracks; CSX had no idea they were going to be on the tracks.

            (I have a comment that's in moderation, apparently because i included a link to the newspaper story, so here's the info again)

            As of about 10PM 21 February, the August Chronicle posted an AP story that says:

            “The deadly accident took place at a railroad trestle that crosses the Altamaha River in Wayne County. The tracks, owned by CSX Railroad, cross private land owned by forest-products company Rayonier, which has a nearby paper mill. Joe Gardner, the lead detective on the case, said the crew had Rayonier’s permission to film on its property next to the train tracks.

            “'CSX has told me they were aware they were out there, but they did not have permission to be on the train tracks,’ Gardner said.”

          • MisterManReturns

            Great, thanks. Are you involved in this picture?

          • fairportfan

            Not in the least, and glad i'm not.

          • MisterManReturns

            Also, Gardner's quote was initially abbreviated by Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter.

          • MisterManReturns

            Having worked on several films involving railroad tracks, I am speaking from experience. My statement was intended as such. What pleasure you must take from breaking it down to such an extent. I see that you like to do that, on a regular basis.

          • fairportfan

            Well, when people make dogmatic statements that assume facts not in evidence, it is sort of fun…

          • MisterManReturns

            You sound like a major DB, with a lot of control issues. “Dogmatic statements”? Please. Why don't you spend less time on me, and more on people who actually deserve your d@#*headedness. Well, back to sleep – had a hard week on location. Have fun lurking!

          • fairportfan

            As i said – this isn't a dogmatic statement?

            There is no way that a production company would put crew on a train trestle at such as risk, without permission.

            “No way” – sounds pretty definitive and dogmatic to me.
            Well, you're right – you're not worth my time.


      • detseason

        They had permission to be on the land, NOT on the train tracks.

        • MisterManReturns

          Yes, read the various posts over the past day.

  • Andrew Falconer

    There are enough rails to trails locations that have bridges, that with a bit more research they could have found a safe location.

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      • mckendrick

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        • JGISD

          The kind that gets flagged and removed.

  • AtlantaTerry

    Why wasn't production assistants stationed a mile or so in each direction? One or the other would have seen the train coming long before the engineer blew the required whistle for the bridge.

    I know from personal experience how important this is. Back in the '70s, I was cinematographer on a TV commercial. The camera angle required me to be lying on a road. We sent a PA to block traffic but the idiot got so involved in watching what I was doing that he let traffic flow. My life was saved when the director screamed and I looked up from the camera to see a fast approaching bumper of a truck. I had just enough time to roll out of the way before the camera and I were squished.

    Safety First!

    • MisterManReturns

      The location manager usually sets up security, and hires railroad employees to assist in this situation. It sounds like there was no rep from the railroad line. Very odd.

      • fairportfan

        Sounds to me like they were pushing or exceeding the limits of what they had permission to do – whether intentionally or through a misunderstanding/ignorance.

        Maybe CSX only intended to authorise them to shoot on the property, and they assumed that that included on the tracks.

        Or figured they could get away with it.

        We won't know for sure until the inevitable court cases.

        • Betterleftunsaid

          Okay, enough. You've made your position clear while spamming these comments.

          You DO NOT KNOW whether what you are posting is true.

          Quit being a DB and go away until you have proof to back up your claims.

          • fairportfan

            I am not making any claims – i am pointing out where people have MADE claims or statements that they can't back up.

            What we KNOW as of the latest i saw is that the shoot was – according to the cop on the case – not authorised to be on that tracks.

            And that the police were treating it as a homicide.

            That's it.

            All of the statements made by others about what happened are supposition.

  • William Carrell

    Dang, she was enjoying pulling a train and lost it

    • Laura Lee

      William Carrell, dang, Karma is gonna have herself a field day burying your pathetic ass.

      • William Carrell

        Ha, Chooo Chooo

  • Marc

    “Oops! We're sorry!” Just another dumbass production company throwing safety/proper planning out the window so they can get a shot. Hope you got your dream sequence assholes!

    • Mister Salty

      Oh, so you know exactly how this accident happened? Please enlighten us.

  • Carlos T. Jackal

    This is the most horrible thing I've heard today. I mean, a whole MOVIE about Greg Allman? What a senseless waste… of film.

    • carol

      I agree !!!!

  • FreeThoughtGuy

    terrible, but what does the camera operator's gender have anything to do with this story when it was her assistant that was killed?

    • sadstate

      my thoughts exactly. thank you.

    • Mister Salty

      The person killed was female. Her title was camera operator's assistant. Hence, female camera operator's assistant.

      • FreeThoughtGuy

        Actually the official title for her job is just “camera assistant”. So “A female camera assistant was killed” would have not only have been amore accurate wording but also a less confusing one.

  • sadstate

    why would you even worry about the bed?

    • Mister Salty

      Flying debris, possible derailment.

    • fairportfan

      There was apparently an explosion and fire – since it was a dream sequence, the bed may have been rigged with pyrotechnics.

      Perhaps they thought that leaving something that might explode under the train behind was a bad idea?

      Or perhaps they simply mis-estimated how much time they had?

  • Bryan Foreman

    I hope the rug they put on William Hurt's head doesn't make him look like a joke. I love that guy.