Amtrak collides with freight train in South Carolina, killing two, injuring more than 100

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train early Sunday morning in Lexington County, South Carolina, killing two Amtrak personnel and injuring more than 100, according to authorities.

The crash overnight Sunday caused the lead engine and some passenger cars to derail, Amtrak said in a statement. There were 139 passengers and 8 crew aboard the Amtrak train when it collided with the freight at around 2:35 a.m. Sunday morning near Cayce, South Carolina, officials said.

One hundred-sixteen people in total had been taken to local hospitals, with injuries ranging from very minor to more serious, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said during a news conference Sunday morning.

The engineer of the Amtrak train, 54-year-old Michael Kempf, and the conductor, 36-year-old Michael Cella, were killed during the collision, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said during a news conference. Kempf was from Savannah, Georgia, and Cella was from Orange Park, Florida, she said.

The CSX train was stationary at the time of the collision and appeared to be empty at the time of the crash, officials said. McMaster said there were several train tracks at the location of the collision.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it was sending a team to the site of the crash, and Amtrak said in a statement early Sunday afternoon that it was fully cooperating with the safety board.

Amtrak said that it is “deeply saddened” to report the death of two of its employees.

The company added that CSX maintains all of the tracks and signal systems in the area where the collision occurred. “CSX controls the dispatching of all trains, including directing the signal systems which control the access to sidings and yards,” the statement said.

Railroad sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News that just before the crash, the CSX signals had been suspended for work. All CSX signals were offline, the sources said.

The Amtrak train, according to sources, was given verbal approval by CSX dispatch to proceed down a set of tracks. But the switch on those tracks was on the wrong position, sending the Amtrak train into a CSX train which was sitting still, pulled off to the side. There was no Positive Train Control system on the tracks at this location. Positive Train Control, according to sources, likely would’ve prevented the crash.

Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said during a phone call with reporters Sunday afternoon that, “Our understanding is that the signal system was down and that we were being managed by the dispatchers and by CSX controlling the switches on this bypass.”

Anderson added that the Amtrak train was supposed to be on the main line “just east of the collision.”

The Amtrak train hit the tail end of the CSX freight train, he said. “The switch had been thrown to put the CSX freight on the siding and we collided with the rear of the CSX train.”


Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce, South Carolina on Feb. 4, 2018.