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.”
Tune in for the full story on ABC News’ “20/20″ on Friday, Oct. 31 at 10 p.m. ET.
On Feb. 20, 2014, the day of the tragic accident, Gillard, 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.”
Wayne County Sheriffs Office
PHOTO: The “Midnight Rider” cast and crew were filming on this train trestle over the Altamaha River outside of Doctortown, Ga.
In the scene, the character Gregg Allman imagined his late brother, the character 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, Gilliard said, she heard someone telling everyone 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 given the production crew permission to be there and had also allegedly 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.
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 obtained by ABC News.
“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 an iron 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 Gilliard’s left arm, then smashed into the hospital bed. 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.
Slates for Sarah/Facebook
PHOTO: 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, “When the true facts of the events are revealed, people will know that this was not a crime … We would never knowingly put anybody’s safety at risk.”
“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 Greg Allman, but Thursday dropped him 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’s memory, 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.”
Watch the full story on ABC News’ “20/20″ on Friday, Oct. 31 at 10 p.m. ET.