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Singer Allman sued over train death

Singer Gregg Allman is being sued along with producers, a rail company and others accused of being responsible for the death of a young camera assistant when a freight train slammed into a film crew in Georgia.

The lawsuit, filed in Chatham County State Court by the parents of Sarah Jones, 27, targets 10 individuals associated with the film Midnight Rider, based on the Allman Brothers Band founder’s autobiography.

It also goes after eight corporations including CSX Transportation, which owns the railway tracks where the crash occurred, and Rayonier Performance Fibres, a subsidiary of forest-products manufacturer Rayonier that owns the land surrounding the crash site.

Film-makers “selected an unreasonably dangerous site for the filming location; failed to secure approval for filming from CSX; concealed their lack of approval from CSX from the cast and crew … and otherwise failed to take measures to protect the safety of the Midnight Rider cast and crew,” the lawsuit says.

Allman, 66, was named as a defendant in his role as an executive producer on the film. Also included were director Randall Miller, his production company Unclaimed Freight Productions and several of his assistants on the film, along with companies assisting with the production.

The lawsuit says Rayonier should be held accountable for allowing the film crew on to its property. It says a company employee wrongly told the crew “only two trains would pass by on the railroad track per day”. It says CSX did not give permission for the crew to film on its tracks, but the company knew shooting would be taking place in the area and should have taken precautions.

“Despite the fact that multiple CSX trains passed the Midnight Rider cast and crew on February 20, with those individuals in view of the trains’ operators, no warning was given to the subsequent train that ultimately caused Sarah’s death,” the lawsuit said.

Production on Midnight Rider had just begun on February 20 when a freight train crossing the Altamaha River in south-east Georgia struck crew members filming on the railroad bridge. Ms Jones, from Atlanta, was killed and six other crew members were injured.

Sheriff’s investigators in rural Wayne County, where the crash occurred, say Mr Miller’s crew had permission to be on the property abutting the bridge. But investigators say CSX Railroad, which owns the train tracks, denied giving producers a permit to be on the tracks themselves. The train smashed into a metal-framed bed that the film crew had placed across the tracks.

Producers suspended work on the movie indefinitely the following week. Actor William Hurt, who was play Allman and was at the scene of the crash, later issued a statement saying he informed producers he would no longer work on the film.

Authorities have yet to decide whether to file criminal charges in the case.

CSX spokeswoman Kristin Seay said the company had not seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment. Mr Miller’s lawyer, Donnie Dixon, said he was “unaware of any details” and did not comment further.

Russell Schweiss, Rayonier’s director of corporate communications, said the company had not been served with the lawsuit and would address it through the courts.

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