Parents and train engineer testify in civil trial against CSX in ‘Midnight Rider’ death

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Emotional testimony in day three of the civil case against CSX railroad corporation as the parents of the Sarah Jones and those driving the train that killed Jones took the stand at Chatham County Courthouse Thursday.

Sarah Jones died on the set of the Greg Allman film, ‘Midnight Rider’ back in 2014. The Jones family is suing the railroad claiming negligence, and they say to make sure everyone involved in Sarah’s death is held accountable.

One of the most emotional moments Thursday, when father Richard Jones was asked about his family, he didn’t know whether to answer he had three children or has three children.

Richard Jones told the jury if CSX had done things differently that day, his daughter would still be alive.

But the defense implied fault lies in the hands of Randy Miller – the director Midnight Rider.

“Yes, absolutely you’re correct, but that being said, I would also state that if CSX had reacted given the information that they had, that chances are, Sarah would also be alive,” said Richard Jones in response to the defense.

Jones also told the jury he wished CSX would have just flat out said “No” to filming in the emails exchanged between the film production and CSX corp.

The Jones family says their goal in this case is to keep this from happening to anyone else.

Technology on the train reveals that the emergency brake was not activated until five seconds after impact. When the engineer, Michael Ryan, who was driving the train that killed Sarah Jones was brought to the stand, he admitted he saw something that didn’t look right, but they thought it was birds.

The engineer then said  it would have been “totally useless” to slow down the brakes …

“When did you notice it would be useless?” the Plaintiff asked.

“When I noticed there was actual people on that bridge, and the distance I was to the 15 or 20 people right around the track, I was concerned if I was to slow that train in emergency, that something could’ve dislodged, which has happened, and fallen into people,” said Ryan.

The plaintiff rested their case today, then the defense started their case, bringing some of the same CSX representatives up  who continued to testify the track appeared to be clear.

The defense brought up an expert, Gary Wolf, president of Wolf Railway Consulting Firm who has been in the business for 47 years. Wolf testified that the change in speed of the train from throttle 8 to 6 was likely in anticipation for the downgrade coming with the river terrain.

Wolf also said that video evidence shows the crew knew the train was coming and had time to get off the tracks.

The defense will continue with their case Friday morning.

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