Amtrak Train Reportedly Derails After Collision In South Carolina

Glen Norman
February 8, 2018

Amtrak Train 91 was traveling between NY and Miami with 147 people aboard when it collided with a CSX freight train in Cayce at about 2:35 a.m., derailing the lead engine and some passenger cars, Amtrak said in a statement.

There were eight crew members and approximately 139 passengers on board.

Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida, were killed, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher told reporters. Both men were in the first vehicle of the train.

Passengers aboard the Amtrak train that slammed into a freight train before dawn Sunday described being jolted awake as seats ripped away, adding screams and crying followed in the chaos that ensued.

Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said Sunday afternoon that there's no evidence of foul play, although the FBI is assisting in the investigation.

Investigators are now focused on why a railroad switch was set in the wrong position, leading to the Amtrak train off the main line and onto the side track which was occupied by the empty CSX train.

"It's becoming nearly like an epidemic for Amtrak", said Najmedin Meshkati, a University of Southern California engineering professor who has studied positive train control.

Amtrak said the train's lead engine and a number of passenger cars had derailed after the collision.

The freight train engines were "all torn up" and the Amtrak engine was "barely recognizable" from the crash.

"It's a terrible thing to see, to understand what force was involved", South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told reporters.

"My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims in this mornings train collision in South Carolina", Trump said. Investigators say many deadly USA train crashes could have been prevented if the system was in place. "CSX maintains all of the tracks and signal systems", the company said.

It was the second major crash involving an Amtrak train in less than a week.

Last week, an Amtrak train carrying members of Congress to a Republican retreat in West Virginia struck a truck near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Federal investigators are trying to figure out why a switch was in the wrong position, sending an Amtrak train into a freight train and killing a conductor and an engineer in SC and injuring more than 100 passengers.

The passenger train was part of Amtrak's Silver Star Service.

The Lexington Sheriff's Department said on Twitter that the crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Drive, close to Pine Ridge, S.C. His mother was in the third auto of the train on her way back home to Denmark.

Derek Pettaway, a passenger in one of Train 91's rear carriages, told CNN he was sleeping as he headed for Orlando but was awakened by the impact. "I ended up going into the wall".

Rodriguez continued: "That's when I went between aisles, and I saw a kid bleeding all over, his skull was showing, and his mother was in shock". "I mean you're trying to save, cut jobs because you trying to save money. Bathroom's tore up, toilet bowl's out, everything's a disaster".

Numerous passengers were asleep when the crash jolted them awake and forced them into the cold.

Of the 116 people taken to four hospitals, only about a half dozen were admitted. "You could clearly tell the train was coming off the track".

Palmetto Health received 62 patients, including 59 adults and 3 children. Most of the injuries were minor. The lines, as shown by a hand-written diagram, were in a "lined and locked" position. Rich Kempf said his brother, Michael, was a "good guy" and a "good dad".

Emergency crews responded to the crash scene around 2:45 a.m. ET, said Harrison Cahill, a spokesman for Lexington County. Officials said some 5,000 gallons of fuel leaked as a result of the collision, but it was under control and no threat to public safety.

It is Amtrak's fifth crash this year and the fourth that resulted in deaths or injuries. "[But] it is not a cure-all-it does not address accidents or derailments caused by track or equipment failures".

Amtrak says it has been a "safe and reliable transporter of more than 30 million passengers" but is making improvements.

He says Michael was suffering from PTSD after being involved in several fatal accidents with Amtrak, and that the hours and trauma of those incidents were taking a toll, as was the pressure to get back on the track quickly.

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