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Jury: Railroad to pay $3.9M for train death of film worker

Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 6:30 PM
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 6:30 PM

A railroad owner must pay $3.9 million to the family of a movie worker killed on a Georgia railroad trestle in 2014, a jury decided Monday in civil verdict that found the company shared in the blame for the deadly freight train collision even though the film crew was trespassing.

The parents of Sarah Jones sued CSX Transportation in Chatham County State Court, saying the railroad shared blame for their daughter's death. The 27-year-old camera assistant died in the crash Feb. 20, 2014, during the first day of shooting "Midnight Rider," an ill-fated movie about Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band.

"This trial disclosed a number of exceptionally poor judgments and ignored opportunities by CSX Transportation to prevent this tragedy," Jones' parents, Richard and Elizabeth Jones of Columbia, South Carolina, said in a written statement.

CSX plans to appeal the jury's decision, said Rob Doolittle, a spokesman for the Jacksonville, Florida-based company.

"CSX is deeply sympathetic to the terrible loss suffered by the family of Ms. Sarah Jones, but respectfully disagrees with the conclusions reached by the jury today," Doolittle said.

The film's director, Randall Miller, served a year in jail after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespassing charges. Jones' parents said CSX also failed to take precautions that could have averted the crash on a trestle spanning the Altamaha River near Jesup in southeast Georgia.

Jones' family had also sued Miller, his fellow production managers and several other defendants. All of them except for CSX settled or otherwise resolved their cases out of court. The jury Monday found $11.2 million to be the total value of Jones' life as well as her pain and suffering. Jurors decided CSX — the only defendant on trial — bore 35 percent of the responsibility for Jones' death, making the railroad's share $3.9 million.

The jury in Savannah heard testimony during the civil trial that two CSX trains rolled through while the movie crew stood on both sides of the tracks within an hour before the crash, but the operators of those trains never called dispatchers to alert them. Jurors also were shown a CSX policy that train operators are expected to immediately report trespassers on its tracks and rights of way.

Jeffrey Harris, the Jones family's attorney, also noted that the train's brakes weren't applied until after the locomotive struck a hospital bed the filmmakers had placed across the tracks. Actor William Hurt, hired to play Allman, had been lying in the bed before the train came upon the crew at 53 mph (85 kph). Hurt escaped unharmed.

Six crew members were injured by flying shrapnel from the bed. Jones was run over.

Hurt appeared in Savannah and sat outside the courtroom during the trial's first day last week. But the actor was never called to testify in the case.

CSX attorneys blamed the crash entirely on the filmmakers. CSX officials had twice sent production managers emails denying them permission to shoot on the bridge. Three of Jones' co-workers testified that production managers never told the rest of the crew members, who went onto the railroad trestle unaware they were trespassing.

CSX lawyers argued that evidence of failures to follow company policies doesn't prove the railroad was negligent. They said the engineer in the crash didn't brake sooner because he was afraid the train would derail and possibly dump its payload of shipping containers onto people who were huddled on the bridge's narrow walkway beside the tracks.

The crash ended production on "Midnight Rider," which has remained in limbo. Allman went to court to prevent Miller from reviving it before he died in May at age 69.

Traces of weedkiller found in 10 Ben & Jerry's flavors

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 10:59 AM

Traces Of Weedkiller Found In 10 Ben & Jerry's Flavors

Traces of a chemical used in weedkillers has been found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products, according to a report.

>> Read more trending news 

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) reported the finding, claiming to have found glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, in at least 10 of the popular ice cream companies flavors.

Herbicides, commonly known as weedkillers, are chemical substances toxic to plants used to control vegetation and destroy unwanted plants.

>> Related: Ben & Jerry’s celebrate Bob Marley with One Love flavor

The association found the herbicide in the following flavors: Peanut Butter Cup, Peanut Butter Cookie, Vanilla (two versions), Phish Food, The Tonight Dough, Half Baked, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Americone Dream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. 

Cherry Garcia, the 11th flavor sampled, tested negative for glyphosate.

>> Related: Police group boycotts Ben & Jerry's after company announces support for Black Lives Matter

But according to scientists, the amount is small and well below the legal limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the government agency in charge of setting a ceiling on the amount of glyphosate allowed in food.

One calculation, found by John Fagan, the chief executive of the Health Research Institute Laboratories, which did the testing for the OCA, found that “a 75-pound child would have to consume 145,000 eight-ounce servings a day of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream to hit the limit set by the EPA,” the New York Times reported.

Fagan said an adult would have to eat 290,000 servings to hit the agency’s limit.

“Based on these government thresholds, the levels found in Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream would seem totally irrelevant,” Fagon told the Times.

But the OCA is advising Ben & Jerry’s, whose brand is known for environmental advocacy, to transition to using only organic ingredients, including milk, in its products. The organization is urging natural and organic food stores to halt sales of Ben & Jerry’s products until the brand does so.

>> Related: Ben & Jerry's co-founders arrested during protests at U.S. Capitol

Read more at the New York Times.

Teen allegedly harassed by police for mowing lawns in affluent neighborhood

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 3:54 PM

(Getty File Photo)
MariuszBlach/Getty Images/iStockphoto
(Getty File Photo)(MariuszBlach/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

While he was mowing lawns and handing out business cards, a black teen said that he was harassed by a Harris County Precinct 1 police officer.

>> Read more trending news 

The teen, identified as Marvin Gibson, 19, captured the incident on video.

The video showed the officer asking Gibson for his identification and an explanation of why he is going door to door. The teen provided his business card and explained that he is giving out his cards to promote a lawn care service.

The officer asked him for his name and date of birth. The young man provided this information but then asked the officer why he is asking him about his personal information.

The officer responded, “I’m investigating what you are doing.”

Gibson is confused by that response since he has already explained that he is providing business cards for a lawn care service.

Seemingly frustrated about being questioned, the officer told the teen that, regardless, he is supposed to provide identification anytime an officer asks for it.

Gibson then asked for the officer’s card.

The officer responded by taking out his handcuffs and indicated that he will just arrest the teen..

Gibson backed away, telling the officer that he is on video.

A second teenager appeared on the video, questioning why they are being stopped. As the camera panned around, it showed a lawnmower, care equipment and the business cards that the teens are using.

As the second teenager explained that they don’t understand why they are being questioned for mowing grass and putting out business cards, the officer said, “Put your hands down,” even though the video does not show either teen with their hands in the air.

At this point, the teens pointed out that they are clearly doing lawn care and told the officer that they believe they have been profiled for being young black males.

From behind the camera, Gibson explained that they are questioning the officer’s behavior, because they are concerned about it happening again to someone else, potentially resulting in someone getting hurt.

The teen returned home. However, officers soon came to his home and continued pressing him, claiming they need identification from Gibson.

At the end of the video, the teens included snapshots of injuries they claimed they received during a raid of their home that followed the incident.

Man wearing flip-flops slips, falls 100 feet to his death 

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 3:54 PM



Fleur Schinning Photography - ww/Getty Images
(Fleur Schinning Photography - ww/Getty Images)

A man slipped and fell to his death while taking a picture of a waterfall Saturday, authorities said.

>> Read more trending news 

Robert Durbin, of Montana, was at the Montana’s Glacier National Park when he “lost his footing,” according to the Missoulian. Durbin fell into a creek before being sent over a cliff and falling approximately 100 feet, the Missoulian reported. 

>> Florida man, 20, dies after falling off cliff at national park

“He wasn't wearing the proper shoes for that,” Durbin’s brother, William, told Missoulian. “I was told he had flip-flops on. It was just something silly, but I've done it. My son has done it. It was just an unfortunate accident.”

>> Man falls into hot spring at Yellowstone National Park

The 26-year-old man “passed away doing what he loved,” according to a GoFundMe page his family created to help defray funeral costs.

Read more at the Missoulian.

Large electronics will have to be screened under new TSA carry-on policy

Published: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 12:17 PM

Large Electronics Will Have To Be Screened Under New TSA Carry-On Policy

Passengers traveling through America’s airports will have to separate large electronics from their carry-on baggage under new screening procedures announced Wednesday by the Transportation Security Administration.

>> Read more trending 

Travelers will be required to remove electronics that are larger than a cellphone from carry-on baggage so the electronics can undergo X-ray screening in an effort aimed at upgrading the nation’s aviation security, officials said. The change does not apply to passengers who are part of the TSA Precheck program.

“It is critical for (the) TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe,” acting TSA administrator Huban Gowadia said in a news release. “By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats.”

The security change was announced after it was tested in 10 airports, including Boston’s Logan International Airport, Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Puerto Rico's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. The measure will be rolled out to the rest of the nation’s airfields in the coming months.

Officials said the strengthened screening policy might lead to additional baggage checks for passengers, but the TSA said it has found ways to speed the process up through “more targeted measures.”

The change does not affect what can be brought through a checkpoint.

Wednesday’s announcement came weeks after Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said flights coming into the United States would be required to conduct enhanced screening of electronic devices and passengers.

Officials announced in March that large personal electronic devices had been restricted at 10 airports in Africa and the Middle East due to security concerns. The restrictions have since been lifted.

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