Services announced for West Columbia native killed filming movie

cwinston@thestate.comFebruary 20, 2014 

Update (8 a.m. Feb. 24): Services will be held this week for Sarah Elizabeth Jones, the West Columbia native who died last week while filming a movie in South Georgia.

A memorial for Jones, a graduate of Brookland-Cayce High School and the College of Charleston, will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Ashland United Methodist Church at 2600 Ashland Road, Columbia.

The memorial will be followed by a celebration at 5 p.m. at Saluda River Club (the main entrance is at 644 Corley Mill Road, Lexington.

According to her obituary, the family is requesting that donations be made to: BC Education Foundation Sarah Jones Scholarship Fund c/o Brookland-Cayce High School 1300 State Street, Cayce, SC 29033

Original story: A West Columbia native was killed Thursday while working with a film crew making a movie in south Georgia.

Sarah Elizabeth Jones, 27, of Atlanta was killed making “Midnight Rider,” a biopic about musician Gregg Allman. Friends said Jones was a cheerleader at Brookland-Cayce High School before going to the College of Charleston. There, she minored in film studies and graduated in December 2009, according to school officials.

Susan Hughes graduated with Jones in 2005. The two grew up together and cheered together from a young age through high school. Hughes said that Jones had enjoyed photography.

"She was a really sweet, energetic, lively girl anyone would love to have as a friend," Hughes said on Friday. "Always smiling and laughing."

Jones, who was working with a Savannah-based production company, also worked on the set of “The Vampire Diaries,” a popular show on the CW network.

"She was amazing," said Warren Brace, who worked on a number of projects with Jones. "She was so funny and personable. She helped you out with everything."

They met in Charleston, working on the show "Army Wives." Later they would cross paths on Atlanta-produced shows.

"She came out and walked on 'The Walking Dead.' She worked a lot on 'The Vampire Diaries,'" said Brace, who's now working on the show "Halt and Catch Fire." He got the bad news yesterday while on set, and word spread quickly.

"I'm dazed," he said, his voice weary with emotion. He will most remember "her energy on set, the way she made you laugh. She enjoyed life. I enjoyed being around her."

The film community tends to be a tight knit bunch, and everyone is grieving, Brace said.

"The whole crew is hurt by it," he said. "She was a good one."

He is a second camera assistant, he said, adding, "just like Sarah."

Wayne County sheriff's detectives were working Friday to piece together how and why it happened.

A sheriff's investigator said Friday that the movie crew was working on train tracks without permission from the railroad when a freight train crashed into the production team and its equipment, killing one and injuring seven others,

The deadly collision took place at a railroad trestle that crosses the Altamaha River in the rural county about 60 miles southwest of Savannah. The tracks, owned by CSX Railroad, cross private land owned by forest-products company Rayonier, which has a nearby paper mill. Joe Gardner, the lead detective on the case, said the crew had Rayonier's permission to film on its property next to the train tracks.

"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.

Officials with Local 600, the California union to which Jones belonged, posted on Facebook that they were “shocked and saddened by the loss... Sarah was an active and proud member of Local 600 and a well respected Camera Assistant, much loved by those who worked with her. Our hearts and thoughts go out to her family and friends in this time of terrible tragedy. She will be deeply missed.”

Similar thoughts were shared by the S.C. Film Council, which posted: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and individuals involved in today's tragic accident in Savannah. Our hearts are completely broken and words cannot capture our sadness.”

Los Angeles publicist Nadine Jolson emailed a brief statement on behalf of the production company: "All of us on the production team are devastated by the tragic accident that happened today," the studio's statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our crew member."

CSX issued a statement saying the railroad company was "deeply saddened" by the crash and cooperating with investigators. It provided no further details other than to say the train involved was traveling to Savannah from Memphis, Tenn.

Authorities provided few details about the collision. Gardner said it wasn't clear if crew members were actually on the trestle bridging the river or just on the tracks at the river's edge. He said the train smashed some of the crew's equipment, and it's possible some of the injuries were caused by flying debris. Among the items found on the tracks was what appeared to be a mattress for a bed, Gardner said.

It also wasn't clear if the film crew was waiting to film a train or was caught unaware by one approaching, Gardner said.

"That's a very active train track," he said. "There's probably anywhere from up to 10 trains a day that go through on those tracks."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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