SAVANNAH, Ga. - Filmmakers have shelved production on a movie about the life of Gregg Allman a week after a freight train killed one crew member and injured seven others, a Savannah city official said Thursday.
Filming of the movie "Midnight Rider," starring William Hurt as the Allman Brothers Band singer in his later years, was just getting started when the train crashed into the crew and its equipment Feb. 20 on a trestle crossing the Altamaha River in rural Wayne County. Sheriff's investigators said the film crew had permission to be on private property adjacent to the train tracks, but not on the tracks themselves.
Following the collision, producers requested a permit through the Savannah Film Office to film at a private home in the city next week, said William Hammargren, the film office director working closely with the project. But he said they told him Wednesday night that work on the project was being halted, at least temporarily.
"They did confirm to me that they're shutting down production," Hammargren said. "I don't know for how long."
Hammargren said stopping production typically means that a film's crew is let go and any prior arrangements for shooting on location are scrapped. But he added that "Midnight Rider" producers didn't tell him that specifically.
Nadine Jolson, a publicist for the production company behind "Midnight Rider," did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment Thursday.
Investigators with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office have released few details surrounding the deadly collision about 60 miles southwest of Savannah. Joe Gardner, the lead detective on the case, has said the crew had permission to film next to the train tracks on property owned by Rayonier, the forest products company that has a large paper mill nearby. The tracks belong to CSX Railroad.
"CSX has told me they were aware they were out there, but they did not have permission to be on the train tracks," Gardner told reporters last week.
Sheriff's officials said the crash killed 27-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Jones, a camera assistant from Atlanta. The sheriff's initial incident report said Jones was on the railroad bridge spanning the river when she was struck by a passing freight train. Others were "injured either by the train or by debris from production equipment or by a bed that had been placed on the trestle by the crew," the report said.
The report said the film's director, Randall Miller, and production manager, Jay Sedrish, told deputies "they were here to film a movie scene." But it does not include statements from witnesses about the collision.
Miller's production company had been working with Savannah-based Meddin Studios on the film, which is based on Allman's 2012 memoir, "My Cross to Bear."
No criminal charges have been filed. Gardner said the sheriff's investigation would likely take several weeks.
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