'Midnight Rider' Hairstylist Describes When Train Hit Her, Killed Fellow Crew Member

PHOTO: Hair stylist Joyce Gilliard was hit by a train in an accident that killed camera assistant Sarah Jones on the "Midnight Rider" film set.PlayABC News
WATCH Camera Assistant Killed in 'Midnight Rider' Train Accident

A hairstylist severely injured by a train that killed 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones during a shoot for the film "Midnight Rider" described the horrific moments when she realized the train was going to strike her.

"I saw the light of that train," Joyce Gilliard told ABC News' "20/20." "It was like the train was right there, so you had seconds to figure out what you were going to do."

On Feb. 20, 2014, the day of the tragic accident, Gilliard, 42, said the cast and crew drove two hours to a train trestle over the Altamaha River outside of Doctortown, Georgia, for what was only supposed to be a pre-production shoot, according to the production schedule obtained by "20/20."

"I was told that it wasn't actual principal photography," said Gilliard.

But veteran filmmaker Randall Miller, who was writing, producing and directing "Midnight Rider," was, in fact, shooting a full scene at the train trestle, witnesses told "20/20."

PHOTO: Actor William Hurt lays in a hospital bed on the set of Midnight Rider, just moments before the train accident that killed Sarah Jones, pictured on the far right.Obtained by ABC News
Actor William Hurt lays in a hospital bed on the set of "Midnight Rider," just moments before the train accident that killed Sarah Jones, pictured on the far right.

In the scene, Gregg Allman imagined his late brother, Duane Allman, on the other side of the bridge in a dream sequence, according to a call sheet obtained by "20/20."

Jones, who had worked multiple seasons on the show "Vampire Diaries" before taking the job on "Midnight Rider," was in charge of wrangling the camera gear.

While Gilliard, Jones and the rest of the crew were preparing to start filming, multiple witnesses told "20/20," two trains passed by. After the second train, the crew moved out on the bridge to place a hospital bed and the camera on the train trestle, multiple witnesses told "20/20."

Then, someone asked what to do if a train was spotted.

"[Someone said], 'You have 60 seconds to get off the track.' I was more or less, '60 seconds to get off the track?'" Gilliard said. "And I started praying. I'm mad at myself because I didn't say something."

The owner of the land adjacent to the bridge had allegedly given the production crew permission to be there and had also reportedly told them that only two trains would use the track that day.

There were no railroad officials or medical help present on set, multiple witnesses told "20/20," nor was the film's location manager, Charley Baxter. He hadn't been able to obtain permission from the railroad to film on the trestle bridge. Baxter emailed the railroad's refusal to producers just before 11 a.m. that day.

PHOTO: The Midnight Rider cast and crew were filming on this train trestle over the Altamaha River outside of Doctortown, Ga.Wayne County Sheriffs Office
The "Midnight Rider" cast and crew were filming on this train trestle over the Altamaha River outside of Doctortown, Ga.

Moments after the crew was in position and filming began, a CSX train Q12519 with two locomotives and 37 freight cars came barreling down the track at an estimated 57 miles per hour, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report on their website.

"I don't know who yelled anything. All I know, I heard and I saw the train. And you just immediately started running," Gilliard said.

The cast and crew had to run along a narrow pathway toward the oncoming train to save their lives. Gilliard remembered seeing Miller and another crew member trying to yank the hospital bed off the tracks. When she realized she couldn't get off the bridge fast enough, Gilliard said she held onto a girder.

"The pressure from the wind from the train was so strong that, holding onto the girder, I wasn't able to. It pulled me off," she said.

The train struck the hospital bed, then smashed into Gilliard's left arm. Iron shrapnel flew everywhere. The train's impact snapped a bone in Gilliard's left arm.

"I couldn't believe what was happening. I thought about dying and my family getting that call," said Gilliard.

Jones was the first person Gilliard saw when she opened her eyes once more.

"At first it was like a quiet, like people were in shock at what happened. I remember hearing somebody say 'Oh my gosh, she's dead,'" Gilliard said.

PHOTO: Sarah Jones, a camera assistant on Midnight Rider, was killed during filming.Slates for Sarah/Facebook
Sarah Jones, a camera assistant on 'Midnight Rider,' was killed during filming.

Miller and three other members of the "Midnight Rider" team were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing. They declined to speak with "20/20." Miller and his wife, producer Jody Savin, issued a statement that said, in part, "Randall Miller and Jody Savin have intense sorrow and regret over the tragic incident that occurred on February 20, 2014, causing the death of Sarah Jones... they believed there was no danger present in filming on the tracks that day because they believed they had permission to be on the tracks from Rayonier and CSX... They had no reason to believe that anyone would be placed in danger... They care deeply for their film crew and the actors working on their films. They will live with the sorrow of Sarah's death for the rest of their lives." Read their full statement at the end of the story.

"They wanted to get the shot, so whatever it took to get the shot is what they did," Gilliard said. "The entire crew was put in a situation where we all had to basically run for our lives."

Attorney Jeff Harris has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jones' parents, Elizabeth and Richard Jones. The Jones had also sued "Midnight Rider" producer Gregg Allman, but Thursday dropped him, Gregg Allman's manager Michael Lehman and "Midnight Rider" distributor Open Road Films from their civil lawsuit.

"The people who made poor choices that day need to be held fully accountable [for] what they did," Richard Jones told "20/20."

"The audacity, the audacity to put someone else's life in such danger, [it was] total disregard for someone else," Elizabeth Jones told "20/20." "And it wasn't just Sarah, there were others who were injured."

In honor of their daughter, Elizabeth and Richard Jones are trying to bring awareness to safer film sets with their website, Safety for Sarah.

Gilliard and five other crew members were injured in the accident. Gilliard suffered a compound fracture in her left arm and had to have a plate put in. She said she was out of work for eight months because of the injury. Gilliard is also suing the producers of "Midnight Rider," the railroad company and the landowners.

"It's not just my arm that was hurt," Gilliard said. "I suffered such a traumatic experience seeing my co-worker, friend, lose her life because of someone else's negligence."

Full Statement from Attorneys for Randall Miller, His Wife and Producer Jody Savin to ABC News:

Our clients Randall Miller and Jody Savin have intense sorrow and regret over the tragic incident that occurred on February 20, 2014 causing the death of Sarah Jones. She was a truly exceptional, wonderful person. They believed there was no danger present in filming on the tracks that day because they believed they had permission to be on the tracks from Rayonier and CSX. Before filming, the film crew was let onto the property by Rayonier representatives. They were informed that only two trains would be going down the tracks by a representative from Rayonier, who was present. Then they personally observed two trains pass by. So when they were told to go ahead and film on the tracks they had no reason to believe that anyone would be placed in danger by doing so.

Randall Miller was on the tracks beside the bed directing the filming. He had no reason to believe another train would come down the tracks, or that he shouldn't rely on the information given by Rayonier that no other trains would come that day. He would never knowingly or deliberately put anyone on his crew in danger or put himself in danger. When Randall became aware of the approach of the train he and others attempted to lift a hospital bed, which was being used in the scene, from the tracks. As he was doing so the bed came apart causing him to fall on the tracks and the bed to fall on top of him. A crew member pulled him off of the rail and the overhang of the train passed over him as he lay alongside the tracks.

Randall Miller and Jody Savin have made more than 13 movies without a significant accident or injury. They care deeply for their film crew and the actors working on their films. They will live with the sorrow of Sarah's death for the rest of their lives. They are committed to working with the unions and others in the film industry to increase safety awareness and education on film sets.