William Hurt, who is set to play Gregg Allman in the upcoming biopic Midnight Rider, provided new details on the accident that killed a crew member as the film was shooting in Georgia last month. In an e-mail to a friend obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Hurt said that he had raised concerns about the danger of shooting on the railway trestle.
Hurt said in the e-mail that he had been assured twice that it was safe to film on the historic Doctortown Railroad Trestle in Wayne County, Georgia. He asked “how long the crew had to get off if by some impossible chance another train came,” and was told they had 60 seconds.
“I said, ‘Sixty seconds is not enough time to get us off this bridge,'” Hurt wrote. “There was a communal pause. No one backed me up. Then, we . . . just went ahead. I took off my shoes, got on the heavy, metal hospital bed and began preparing.” When a train did in fact come down the tracks, “We didn’t have 60 seconds. We had less than 30.”
Assistant camera operator Sarah Jones, 27, was struck by the train and killed and six other crewmembers were injured in the incident. The group had been filming a dream sequence that involved placing a metal frame bed on the railroad tracks; two trains had already come that day and the crew was told that no others were scheduled.
The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office told the Times that Midnight Rider‘s producers did not have permission to film on the railway trestle. The Sheriff and Union representatives also said that there was no railroad representative on the site.
The incident is under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and a debate over safety conditions on film shoots has sprung up in the wake of Jones’ death. Production of the film, which is based on Gregg Allman’s autobiography My Cross To Bear, was suspended after the accident.