An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a freight train Sunday morning near Columbia, South Carolina, killing two Amtrak employees and injuring 116 others.
The deadly crash, Amtrak’s third fatal accident since its Cascades 501 train derailed south of Tacoma, Washington on Dec. 18, occurred about 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning in the town of Cayce, South Carolina.
According to CBS News, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said the collision killed Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, and conductor Michael Sella, 32. Mr. Kempf and Mr. Sella were among the 148 people aboard Amtrak 91, including 139 passengers and eight crew members.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash. The agency has so far determined that a switch had been set in a position that diverted the Amtrak train off the main track and onto a siding near a switchyard where railcars hauling automobiles are loaded and unloaded. The Amtrak train struck a CSX freight train.
According to CBS News, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that investigators know what happened to cause the crash and that they are focused on why it happened.
“Amtrak President Richard Anderson appeared to point the finger at CSX, saying the signal system run by the freight railroad at that spot was down at the time, and CSX dispatchers were manually routing trains. The NTSB said it was working to confirm that,” CBS reported.
Mr. Sumwalt also repeated what’s become almost a mantra for the investigative agency in the past few years – that positive train control (PTC) could have prevented the deadly crash. PTC is a GPS-guided safety device that can automatically stop or slow a train.
The collision also released about 5,000 gallons of fuel, which hazmat teams are working to clean up.
Donald Trump, who was golfing at Mar a Lago when the crash happened, tweeted his condolences to the victims.
“My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this mornings train collision in South Carolina,” he tweeted. “Thank you to our incredible First Responders for the work they’ve done!”