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Human error blamed for South Carolina train crash

by Leigh Jones
Posted 2/05/18, 10:59 am

A railroad switch set in the wrong position sent an Amtrak passenger train careening into a CSX freight train just south of Columbia, S.C., early Sunday morning, killing two people and injuring 116 others. Federal investigators are still trying to figure out why the freight train crew failed to move the switch back to its regular position after they used it to move their cars onto a side track. When the Amtrak train came along, the switch diverted it onto the side track as well, sending it crashing into the freight train. The collision crumpled both engines and snapped at least one car on the Amtrak train in half. Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, died. Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said she expected more casualties from a crash of such magnitude: “But God blessed us, and we only had the two.” Lawmakers and transportation officials called the crash preventable, noting the GPS-based “positive train control” system would have alerted the Amtrak crew of the problem before their train sped onto the side track. Rail companies in the Northeast have installed the system on most tracks, but operators in other regions have pushed for extensions to the installation deadline, now set for the end of 2018. Sunday’s crash was the second of the week for Amtrak. A train carrying Republican lawmakers to a retreat in Virginia hit a garbage truck on Wednesday, killing one person in the truck.

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Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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