Old 02-21-2014, 03:04 PM   #1
Dennis A. Livesey
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Default Film crew train death

http://variety.com/2014/film/news/mi...nt-1201114468/

This is an awful, terrible tragedy. Although I did no know Sarah Jones, (who is unnamed in the article) my condolences and thoughts are with her and her family.

This incident has double meaning for me. I was a camera assistant for decades yet recently I have become a volunteer trainman at Steamtown. As dangerous as camera assisting can be, it is exponentially more dangerous to work around trains. My heart just breaks to know a member of my old fraternity has been lost this way. May you find peace Sarah.
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Old 02-21-2014, 03:34 PM   #2
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Wow, such an avoidable tragedy by a simple phone call to CSX. Sad news.

I find this to be confusing though:

Quote:
An eyewitness told Variety the movie crew was filming a dream sequence on a railroad trestle when a train unexpectedly crossed the bridge.

The crew, including director Randall Miller, had placed a bed on the tracks for the scene and was expecting two trains on the local bridge, one in each direction, when a third train arrived unexpectedly.
When were they expecting the trains to arrive? How did they know those trains were going to arrive? If they knew those trains were going to arrive, why didn't they know the third train would arrive? Why didn't the crew just jump off the bridge to save themselves? So many questions...

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Old 02-21-2014, 03:44 PM   #3
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Yeah, that didn't need to happen. All they needed was to call CSX and maybe they would be able to tell them how many trains were going to be there. And how did they know it was just going to be 2? They could've even had a knowledgeable railfan there to watch signals or something. And even more, why even film on the tracks anyway? There's technology out there that could easily keep this from happening.
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Old 02-21-2014, 04:53 PM   #4
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I read the article and it really left me scratching my head. How on earth would a motion picture company engage in filming on an active railroad bridge without very close prior coordination with the railroad? I also can't imagine the railroad ever allowing this sort of thing without having a team of their own personnel both on-site and in the dispatch office to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen.

Major league negligence involved here. Someone needs to spend some time in jail for this one.
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Old 02-21-2014, 05:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimThias View Post
Wow, such an avoidable tragedy by a simple phone call to CSX. Sad news.

I find this to be confusing though:
When were they expecting the trains to arrive? How did they know those trains were going to arrive? If they knew those trains were going to arrive, why didn't they know the third train would arrive? Why didn't the crew just jump off the bridge to save themselves? So many questions...
With the line of work I'm in, whenever we have to enter the railroad ROW to do any type of work, a flagman from the railroad needs to be on site with us, he usually has the boards up, and is in radio contact with all the trains that will occupy those tracks and that's on top of getting safety certified and having made a dozen calls to get clearance, the whole unexpected train thing is confusing, maybe they do things different in other states
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Old 02-21-2014, 05:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by KevinM View Post
I read the article and it really left me scratching my head. How on earth would a motion picture company engage in filming on an active railroad bridge without very close prior coordination with the railroad? I also can't imagine the railroad ever allowing this sort of thing without having a team of their own personnel both on-site and in the dispatch office to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen.

Major league negligence involved here. Someone needs to spend some time in jail for this one.
Kevin

I concur. On major (I.E. big studio money) pictures indeed this is how it is done. I am sure this was the procedure on "Unstoppable."

However, there also exists a nether world of low budget filmmaking. That is the "Indie" market which this picture seem to be a part of. (Bio pics often are not big budget) In this market, the skill level of the people involved can vary wildly.

FIlm production people are like most folks; they only have a vague idea of how railroads work. Ideally, the producers hire a very experienced Location Manager and even a specific liaison for working with the railroad. Unfortunately there is the constant danger to the working crew that an inexperienced person has been charged with this great responsibility of protecting the crew. And that seems horribly to be the case here.

The stress from the budget or the creative impulse I have seen severely cloud the judgment of the people, the producers, the director, et all, in charge.

One time I was on a show in Brooklyn New York in a huge, abandoned factory. The scene was the usual detective crime scene with a dead body. Someone on the crew called the union reps for they feared for their health due to possible toxins in the air and on all surfaces, particularly asbestos. This came to a head since the dead body was played by a live actor who was face down in real, not fake, factory debris.

On another really low budget show I was on, the obsessed director "had" to shoot the big shoot-out climax of his magnum opus on abandoned factory site he chose for it's great "look." Only thing was, he did not have permission from the sites owners and we were to go through a hole in the fence and trespass! It turned out the reason why the owners would have said no to the movie production was that it was one of that's state's top super fund toxic pollution sites!

We as a crew then did something I have never seen or participated in before or since. We mutinied. We as a group refused to trespass and endanger our lives.

I'll never forget the producer saying to us. "But I have health insurance! I'll take care of you!" All I could think, "No way am I going to get sick for you and your crappy movie. Besides, where will you be in twenty years when I develop cancer?"
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Old 02-21-2014, 06:29 PM   #7
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Yes, it is very sad, but how can you possibly defend these people? Because they make movies? If it was a bunch of taggers or kids, you'd all be saying "they got what was coming on to them". They were trespassing on a railway bridge with a bed mattress (?!) and filming equipment. Sorry, but this is a bad idea gone horribly wrong.

And I doubt very much that CSX would have said "Oh, sure, we'll stop our trains for your movie". They probably would have said "no" and sent a special agent over.
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Old 02-21-2014, 07:51 PM   #8
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OK, worst case scenario, can you squish down between the rails and likely fit under the train or not?
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Old 02-21-2014, 09:25 PM   #9
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If in fact this was a low-budget, maverick operation, like the one that Dennis describes, then the pathway to this tragedy becomes much more understandable. If the movie company had formally approached the railroad with a proposal, there would have been a lot of hoops to jump and there's a good probability that the answer would have been a flat NO. Assuming that the railroad could see any kind of benefit to cooperating with this activity, they would certainly have passed on costs associated with doing it properly, and the movie company had to know that. It is entirely possible that the appropriate coordination didn't happen because the movie company was too concerned about the cost and the time required to do the job correctly.

I suspect either they or their insurance company will have to pay now. When the ambulance-chasers get hold of this case, they will have a field day with these people.
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Old 02-21-2014, 09:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by magicman_841 View Post
Yes, it is very sad, but how can you possibly defend these people? Because they make movies? If it was a bunch of taggers or kids, you'd all be saying "they got what was coming on to them". They were trespassing on a railway bridge with a bed mattress (?!) and filming equipment. Sorry, but this is a bad idea gone horribly wrong.

And I doubt very much that CSX would have said "Oh, sure, we'll stop our trains for your movie". They probably would have said "no" and sent a special agent over.

At this time, it is not clear what permission the movie production company did or did not have.

I would add they may have had permission from the railroad to be there. And then it would not be the first time on a railroad that a train showed up when it shouldn't. Ask any track worker. Look at the rule book; pages and pages are devoted to track permission. That is indicative this issue has been a long term problem.

I am not sure how you think anyone is defending "these people." I certainly am not saying the movie production company had the right to be there. I am in complete agreement that someone was appallingly incompetent and possibly criminally negligent.

The tragedy is a young women employee is dead because of that negligence.
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Old 02-21-2014, 09:46 PM   #11
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The tragedy is a young women employee is dead because of that negligence.
Why didn't she just jump out of the way? Why didn't ANYONE just jump out of the way as soon as they heard the train coming (for at least a minute according to the article)?? I'm sure we'll find out more as time goes by, but right now those are the first questions that come to my mind. I can't imagine thinking that running away from an approaching train ON THE TRACKS is a better option than just jumping a few feet to the either side of the tracks (even if that means landing in a river, or breaking your legs landing on the ground. Both of those are better options than death).

There was a death last year on a bridge that I've photographed a thousand times. It completely baffled me how the guy who was hit wasn't able to jump off the bridge (no railings on either side) before the train hit him. Worst case scenario he would have broken a leg. He had ample warning that a train was approaching, too, as you can clearly hear a train blowing at several crossings, miles away from the bridge, including one just a quarter mile away from the bridge. I insisted that it had to be suicide or the guy was really drunk, as it happened around 6am, but the story was never followed up.

I just don't know what goes through a person's head when running from an approaching train that would stop them from simply jumping to either side of the tracks ASAP. A train is on a narrow, fixed path. GET OFF that fixed path!

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Old 02-21-2014, 10:13 PM   #12
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Jim

Hopefully more information as to what happened will come to light soon.
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Old 02-21-2014, 10:17 PM   #13
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Here's updated information from the Savannah Morning News website.

http://savannahnow.com/news/2014-02-...d#.UwfdgEJdUfI
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Old 02-21-2014, 10:21 PM   #14
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Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

http://www.ajc.com/ap/ap/entertainme...n-track/ndXhj/
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Old 02-22-2014, 02:57 AM   #15
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So they did not have permission to be on the tracks.

Just like regular folks don't know much about railroads, regular folks (like you railfans here) don't know much about the film business. It's all bright lights, movie stars, limos and money, money, money right?

Let me tell you, it's not.

I have witnessed countless times directors possessed by their vision and damn any one who say no to it. For a below-the-line crew member such as myself to say no meant being fired and blackballed.

The incident above I related regarding the mutiny only worked because the producers, and particular the director, were not based in the States.

Atlanta, where the production in question was based out of, is a busy but still small film community. Good work is hard to come by. I am sure all involved felt they had to get along to go along.

Since the film business is like high school (but with money) I couldn't write this and not worry about jeopardizing future work opportunities if I was still in.

Nice huh?
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Old 02-22-2014, 02:58 AM   #16
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Did she drop any good loot?
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Old 02-22-2014, 03:09 AM   #17
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Update.

http://variety.com/2014/film/news/mi...ls-1201115360/

The train came, the film crew ran toward the bed to escape.

The locomotive hit the bed, (I am guessing it was a full size wooden one) it exploded, a piece struck Jones, she then fell on the rails.

She was a Second Camera Assistant, something I once was.
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Old 02-22-2014, 03:58 AM   #18
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In reply to why people don't just get out of the way:

I agree. But I do remember a young girl I used to go to school with getting hit by a train. She was walking on a trestle and when they heard it coming (probably around 50mph), the others who were with her said she froze up. I guess flight or fight doesn't kick in with trains.

I think we can agree most accidents involving trains and non-train objects are preventable. I've often wondered why with 2 mainlines in one town and awkward intersections near crossings, why I haven't seen many people get hit, but I guess my neck of the woods is smarter. Lol.
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Old 02-22-2014, 01:20 PM   #19
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After reading the update, I still get the impression that although the film crew "had permission to be on the property", they likely didn't have permission to be on the tracks or the bridge, and likely didn't brief the railroad on the details of what they were intending to do. If they had, the railroad never would have allowed ANYTHING to actually be on the track.

It also strikes me that whoever was in charge of the crew....probably this Director fellow (who should end up facing negligent homicide charges IMHO)....likely never conducted any sort of safety assessment or emergency escape briefing.

It is amazing to me how some people blunder through life, never looking at the details or considering the what-ifs.....and then they'll cry "how could this happen to me?" when something awful transpires. Funny, those people will be the first to look for someone with deep pockets to blame when their own stupidity finally catches up with them.
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Old 02-22-2014, 03:24 PM   #20
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Dennis,

In the film industry pecking order, where does the second camera assistant stand? What kinds of duties are they expected to carry out? Asking out of curiosity.
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Old 02-22-2014, 04:42 PM   #21
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Dennis,

In the film industry pecking order, where does the second camera assistant stand? What kinds of duties are they expected to carry out? Asking out of curiosity.
I have a question too, what is the "best boy" and "best boy grip" that I see in film credits?

Sounds like pedophilia to me... lots of that I imagine going around inside hollywood circles
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Old 02-22-2014, 04:46 PM   #22
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I have a question too, what is the "best boy" and "best boy grip" that I see in film credits?

Sounds like pedophilia to me... lots of that I imagine going around inside hollywood circles
Wow Troy, just when I thought your comments couldn't reach a new nadir, there you go.

Now it would probably take you all of two seconds to Google these terms, wouldn't it?
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Old 02-22-2014, 04:52 PM   #23
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Now it would probably take you all of two seconds to Google these terms, wouldn't it?
Sure, but that's no fun
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Old 02-22-2014, 05:06 PM   #24
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After reading the update, I still get the impression that although the film crew "had permission to be on the property", they likely didn't have permission to be on the tracks or the bridge, and likely didn't brief the railroad on the details of what they were intending to do. If they had, the railroad never would have allowed ANYTHING to actually be on the track.

It is amazing to me how some people blunder through life, never looking at the details or considering the what-ifs.....and then they'll cry "how could this happen to me?" when something awful transpires. Funny, those people will be the first to look for someone with deep pockets to blame when their own stupidity finally catches up with them.

I agree with your thoughts and I will add that my thought is since they did get permission to be on the paper mill property and since the tracks were on that property that was a possible twisted way of thinking we can go on the tracks. It still doesn't excuse the stupidity of knowing it was an active RR line and bringing a bed and crew onto the trestle to film! As we've seen time and time again, "common sense" is a thing on the past in many ways and the below link just shows how one person a couple of days ago was lucky to walk away after a blunder move.

http://www.wcvb.com/news/car-collide...bster/24580182

Tragic as it is, it will happen again just like the texting and driving epidemic now and the accidents/deaths resulting in it. As a society we need to smarten up!

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Old 02-23-2014, 02:05 AM   #25
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When I took a crew on RR property (back when I did that) I always had a representative from the RR there (usually a management person) and when we worked on a live track, or adjacent to one, there was a MOW guy with a radio and a vest in addition to the management guy and he would shadow me while I told my guys what to do.

Working on tracks is serious stuff, as is working on potentially live equipment that could come on automatically, or in reaction to someone flipping a switch, or turning a valve somewhere else in the factory.

Such things must be locked out / tagged out which is like a blue flag.

I sort of figured it was a bootleg operation when they were surprised by a train, because a legit operation would have had track and time for such an event.

And even in dark territory, crews would have had prior notice of your presence.

Stopping trains is not rocket science.


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Sounds like pedophilia to me... lots of that I imagine going around inside hollywood circles
Some serious red necken was goin on in someone's brain to get that sentence on the screen.

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