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South Carolina Amtrak Accident Caused By Train Traveling On Wrong Track: Reports

At least two people were killed and more than 100 others were injured early Sunday monring in another Amtrak accident, where a train traveling nearly 60 miles per hour slammed into an unmanned freight train, after being diverted onto a side track. 

The crash occurred at approximately 2:35 a.m. in South Carolina, when Amtrak Train 91 traveling from New York to Miami, carrying 136 passengers and nine crew members, was diverted onto a side track, causing the passenger train to slam into the rear of an unmanned CSX freight train.

According to an Amtrak report for the train accident, the lead engine derailed, as well as some passenger cars.

Media reports indicate that the train was completely destroyed, and left lying on its side next to the crash site. South Carolina Governor, Henry McMaster told local new reporters the first engine of the freight train was torn up, and the single engine of the passenger train was barely recognizable.

The impact of the collision was estimated to be at roughly 59 miles per hour. It caused several Amtrak passengers cars to derail and become mangled, killing Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida.

First responders reported that as many as 116 passengers and crew members aboard the train were sent to nearby hospitals for treatment, including several that were rushed for critical injuries from being tossed inside of the passenger cars.

According to Amtrak President and Chief Executive Richard Anderson, CSX was responsible for handling the tracks and signals when the crash occurred. A preliminary investigation by the U.S. National Transportation Board (NTSB) has found that CSX had lined and padlocked the switch off the mainline to the side rails, which diverted the passenger train to collide with the CSX freight train.

Chairman of the NTSB, Robert Sumwalt reported to news sources that the section of track where the collision occurred was being operated by CSX, and it was CSX’s padlock on the switch that steered the train onto the side rails. Sumwalt reported that a team of investigators from the NTSB was sent on site immediately to collect evidence to determine the root cause of the crash.

Sumwalt indicated that the crash caused an estimated 5,000 gallons of fuel to spill from the cars, however no safety threat to local residents has been announced.

CSX released a statement yesterday on Twitter apologizing to the families of the two individuals killed during the crash and to all of those impacted by the crash. CSX stated they will be working closely with the NTSB over the next few months to investigate the incident and ways to prevent further occurrences.

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Image Courtesy of jpmueller99 under CC BY 2.0

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