Feds announce forum on railway safety following “Midnight Rider” guilty pleas

A day after Wayne County authorities announced the resolution of all criminal cases stemming from the fatal train wreck that killed film crew member Sarah Jones in February 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board announced plans for a public forum “on the dangers of trespassing on the railroad right-of-way.”

Sarah Jones

“While railroad tracks have long held a cultural resonance with Americans, featured in motion pictures, TV shows, music videos and photography, they are private property,” the NTSB said in a statement. “And they can be a deadly place. In 2013, 476 people were killed and 432 were injured in trespassing accidents, according to preliminary data from the Federal Railroad Administration.”

The forum, to be held March 24-25 in Washington DC, “will feature speakers who have been seriously injured by trains; those whose communities have been affected; and railroad employee assistance program employees whose train crews have struck people on railroad property,” the NTSB said.

NTSB data on transportation fatalities.

NTSB data on transportation fatalities includes information on railroads.

On Monday, director Randall Miller reached a deal to enter a guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. Miller received a sentence of two yeas in jail and eight on probation, in addition to a $20,000 fine and community service, while charges were dropped against his wife and business partner Jody Savin.

Executive producer Jay Sedrish also pleaded guilty and got 10 years on probation.

On Tuesday, Wayne County District Attorney Jackie Johnson announced a final guilty plea in the case: “First Assistant Director Hillary Schwartz was found guilty after a bench trial before Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison,” and was sentenced to 10 years probation, and a $5,000 fine.

“As a condition of probation, Schwartz cannot serve in any capacity in which she would be responsible for the safety of crew members on a film set,” Johnson said.

Miller and Sedrish agreed to similar proscriptions.

“As a condition of probation, Sedrish cannot serve in any capacity in which he would be responsible for the safety of crew members on a film set,” Johnson said. “As a condition of probation, Miller cannot serve as a director or in any capacity in which he would be responsible for the safety of crew members on a film set.”