Special to SEGAZINE
A colleague of a camera operator who was fatally struck by a train last week says the film crew had a discussion about safety before the accident.
Camera assistant Tony Summerlin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that the crew was told a set of railroad tracks at Doctortown, near Jesup, were active and two trains passed before one struck Sara Elizabeth Jones, a 27-year-old South Carolina native.
Summerlin and Jones ran as the train approached but Jones was unable to move from its path in time, he said.
“It was going full speed. It seemed like it took half a mile to stop,” he said. “We were running. She said, ‘I can’t carry all this stuff.’ I said, ‘Throw it. Throw it down.’”
Authorities haven’t released many details on the accident, and sheriff’s officials say it’s still under investigation.
The collision happened on a trestle that crosses the Altamaha River in the rural county about 60 miles southwest of Savannah. 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, has said the crew had Rayonier’s permission to film on its property next to the train tracks.
Summerlin said he remembers Jones as an organized co-worker and that he plans to speak with a grief counselor.
“It’s kind of rough to think about,” he said. “It went down right in front of me. I have these random images I can’t really put aside. It still doesn’t seem real.”
The crew was filming a portion of “Midnight Rider,” which is based on the life of musician Gregg Allman. The film is based on Allman’s 2012 memoir, “My Cross to Bear,” with production based at Meddin Studios in Savannah.
A memorial service for Jones was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in her hometown of Columbia, S.C.