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Sarah Jones Hollywood memorial draws calls for safer film sets

March 08, 2014|By Richard Verrier
  • Sarah Jones was struck and killed by a freight train Feb. 20 during filming of the Gregg Allman biopic "Midnight Rider" in Georgia.
Sarah Jones was struck and killed by a freight train Feb. 20 during filming… ((International Cinematographers…)

At least 500 film industry workers gathered in West Hollywood on Friday night to pay tribute to Sarah Jones, the 27-year-old assistant camerawoman killed on a film set last month in Georgia.

Hundreds of union members walked along Sunset Boulevard from the Directors Guild of America building to a parking lot behind the headquarters of the International Cinematographers Guild, where they held candles, and watched videos of Jones' life on two large video screens. Several wore T-shirts with the messages: "We're all Sarah Jones" and "Never Forget. Never Again."

Richard Jones thanked the industry for its outpouring of support for his daughter, whose death after being struck by a freight train in Jesup, Ga., stunned the film community and triggered an extraordinary social media campaign to have her passing recognized during the Oscars ceremony. More than 62,000 people signed a petition to add Jones' name to the Academy Awards in memoriam tribute.

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"Thank you for the beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul," said Richard Jones, who with his wife Elizabeth flew in from South Carolina to attend Friday's memorial.

But Jones also urged the crowd to honor his daughter by creating safer film sets and preventing similar accidents in the future.

"This is not the end," he said, "but rather the beginning of a movement for safer film sets ... there is no reason for another father to give you this talk."

The message resonated with union officials who spoke at the memorial.

"We make movies and we entertain millions of people and no one should have to die for that," said Mike Miller, vice president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. "What happened on that train trestle in Georgia horrified us."

Steven Poster, president of the cinematographers guild, which organized the memorial added: "We hope we will never again have to come together as we have tonight to grieve, to console, to heal and to speak out about the need for total safety in our workplace. The death of Sarah Jones will stand for something and will hold a place of honor in our industry for years to come."

Two of Jones' friends and coworkers, assistant camerawoman Amanda Etheridge and director of photography Robert LaBonge, also shared memories of Jones, who was well liked by her colleagues.

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"Everyone wanted Sarah by their side," said LaBonge, who worked with Jones on the TV show "Army Wives." "When you're on a set and something happens that makes you smile, think of Sarah's joyful attitude."

Jones also will be honored Saturday night by the Society of Camera Operators during their Lifetime Achievement awards.

She was killed Feb. 20 by a freight training while filming a Gregg Allman biopic "Midnight Rider." The accident, which injured seven others, has sparked multiple investigations, including a probe into possible criminal negligence.

ALSO:

Oscars 2014: Sarah Jones included in tribute

Train hits, kills crew member filming Gregg Allman biopic

Production of "Midnight Rider" suspended after death on set

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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