CAYCE, SOUTH CAROLINA (February 4, 2017) – Two people were killed and 116 were injured when an Amtrak train collided with a stopped freight train in South Carolina early Sunday morning, according to a local news source. (map)
The accident happened around 2:35 am on Sunday, February 4th. Amtrak train 91 heading through Cayce, South Carolina approached a section of track with a switch. Normally, the train would have continued straight through, but on Sunday morning the switch had been manually set to divert the train onto another section of track. On this track was a parked CSX freight train that had just finished unloading several cars worth of automobiles.
The Amtrak train crashed into the parked CSX train at a high rate of speed. The impact derailed the lead Amtrak locomotive, and several rail cars. Two Amtrak employees in the locomotive were killed, and a total of 116 people on board the Amtrak were injured. Luckily, there was nobody on board the freight train.
At the time of the accident, the automatic system for that section of track was broken. The CSX dispatch center was instead entirely in control of the trains traveling on the tracks, including the signals, switches, etc. The Amtrak was in direct telephone contact with the CSX dispatch center prior to the accident, and it is unknown why the Amtrak was directed onto the already occupied section of track. CSX was not only in control of the tracks, but also owned the section where Sunday’s accident happened.
It is unknown at this time whether the Amtrak was traveling at a higher rate of speed than the 59 MPH speed limit for that section of track, or whether the conductor attempted to brake prior to the accident. There was no Positive Train Control installed on that section of track. PTC is a system that is federally required to be installed on all train tracks by the end of 2018, with the potential for extensions to the end of 2020. Positive Train Control is an automatic system that can detect potential crashes, derailments, and other problems before they happen, and can automatically divert or brake trains before they get into such collisions. The absence of a working PTC system was reportedly a deciding factor in the recent Washington state Amtrak collision that killed 3 people in December of 2017.
The two people killed were identified as 54 year old train engineer Michael Kempf, a resident of Savannah, Georgia. 39 year old train conductor Michael Cella, a resident of Orange Park, Florida, was also killed. The 116 people that were injured reportedly suffered injuries ranging from scrapes to broken bones.
The NTSB has stated that investigations into major accidents like this can sometimes take over a year. One thing is for certain, the importance of PTC has never been more apparent than in recent months. The high number of recent serious Amtrak incidents are alarming, and prove that the rail system in the US needs a major overhaul to prevent more high casualty incidents.
“The prayers of everyone at Lexton Law Firm are with the families and friends of those killed and injured in this horrible accident. Our firm specializes in train accidents, and our attorneys have 40 years of experience in railroad related accidents,” said the attorneys from Lexton Law Firm, a law firm that specializes in train accidents. Lexton Law Firm recently settled a case for a client that was involved in a train derailment for an confidential settlement amount. Call us today at (877) 864-6664. We are here to help you.