An Amtrak passenger train carrying 147 people collided with a freight train outside of Columbia, South Carolina early Sunday morning – killing at least two people, injuring more than 115 and spilling more than 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel onto the tracks.
Michael Kempf, 54, an Amtrak conductor and 36-year-old Michael Cella, an Amtrak engineer, were killed in the crash, according to Lexington County, S.C. coroner Margaret Fisher.
Several other crash victims are reportedly in critical condition.
Amtrak 91 – traveling the “Silver Star” route from Boston to Miami – collided with a CSX freight train shortly after 2:30 a.m. EST. The passenger train’s lead engine and several cars derailed after impact.
The crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road in Cayce, S.C. – approximately ten miles south of Columbia, S.C. The collision occurred near a railway “switch yard” where freight trains are unloaded.
It’s not immediately clear what caused the crash, although South Carolina governor Henry McMaster told reporters Sunday the Amtrak train was “on the wrong track.”
McMaster said the CSX freight train was stationary and “awaiting a later movement” at the time it was struck by the passenger train – which was traveling at approximately 60 miles per hour. No one was aboard the freight train, according to McMaster.
“The CSX was on the track it was supposed to be on,” McMaster said.
A “Go Team” with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is leading the investigation into the incident.
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Lexington County sheriff Jay Koon said his officers arrived on the scene almost immediately after the crash occurred, along with county emergency response crews who transported more than 100 people to local hospitals.
“Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones,” Koon said.
According to Koon, the response to the tragedy has been “amazing.”
“A number of agencies came together to take care of those affected by this tragedy,” Koon said.
U.S. president Donald Trump has been following the situation from Washington, D.C., according to a statement from the White House.
“The President has been briefed on the train accident in South Carolina and is receiving regular updates,” a statement from the White House noted, per reporter Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press. “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected by this incident.”
Trump later responded to the crash directly via Twitter.
“My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this mornings train collision in South Carolina,” he said. “Thank you to our incredible First Responders for the work they’ve done!”
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Sunday’s incident in South Carolina is the second Amtrak crash in the last five days – following on the heels of an incident in Crozet, Virginia last Wednesday.
In that crash, a train carrying multiple members of the U.S. Congress from Washington, D.C. to a resort in West Virginia crashed into a garbage truck. One of the truck’s passengers was killed in the collision.
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