NTSB continues to investigate deadly CSX-Amtrak collision

Lexington Co. emergency officials are now on the scene of a crash and train derailment in Cayce early Sunday morning. (Source: County of Lexington Twitter)
Lexington Co. emergency officials are now on the scene of a crash and train derailment in Cayce early Sunday morning. (Source: County of Lexington Twitter)
A look at the Amtrak train collision in Cayce, SC. (Source: WIS)
A look at the Amtrak train collision in Cayce, SC. (Source: WIS)

CAYCE, SC (WIS) - The National Transportation Safety Board is leading an investigation on an Amtrak-CSX train collision that killed two and injured more than 100 passengers in Cayce, SC early Sunday morning.

NTSB chief Robert Sumwalt said during a 4 p.m. press conference the crash site says the Amtrak train was traveling on CSX tracks owned by CSX. The lines, as shown by a hand-written diagram, were in a "lined and locked" position, meaning that instead of continuing their track south, the Amtrak train traveled to another track, where it collided with a parked CSX train.

The key to their investigation, Sumwalt said, is to determine why a switch was engaged. He says the speed limit in the area of the crash is 59 mph.

"We have heard but not confirmed that the signals were being worked on," Sumwalt said.

NTSB, who is leading the investigation saying that an Amtrak outward-facing camera was recovered and was taken back to Washington, DC. The Amtrak train was traveling on CSX tracks. The Amtrak train was seven cars and one locomotive with 139 passengers and 8 Amtrak train personnel; the CSX train was two locomotives.

"We never speculate," Sumwalt says. "We just want to deal with the facts."

The Lexington County Coroner's Office says Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, GA and Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, FL, were the two killed in the collision. Kempf was the engineer of the Amtrak train and Cella was the conductor of the train. State officials say 116 people were injured in the train collision.

Palmetto Health officials said in a Sunday afternoon briefing they received a total of 62 patients - 59 adults and 3 children - with 6 of them being admitted and more admissions still possible. One of the patients admitted is in critical condition while two other patients are in serious condition. The rest of the patients are listed in fair condition. Most of the injuries seen were minor. Some of the Amtrak personnel were also treated at Palmetto Health facilities. Their conditions are not known at this time.

Lexington Medical Center spokesperson Jennifer Wilson confirmed that they treated 27 patients with minor injuries, and all but two have been released.

The William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center took in 12 patients, of which one was a veteran, the medical center said in a statement. Eight of the patients have been released while one patient was transported to another hospital for further care. The other patients are expected to be released soon.

Most of the patients were transported by two buses. One bus from Richland County and one bus from Lexington County.

Palmetto Health officials described the response to the incident as phenomenal with amazing coordination. Since patients began arriving at the hospitals during a shift change, staff that was already on site stayed late to assist with the staff that was just arriving.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says it "appears that the Amtrak train was on the wrong track" that led to the deadly train crash and derailment. The coroner's office says the southbound Amtrak train collided with a northbound CSX freight train, which was stationary, causing the Amtrak train to derail.

The collision happened near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road around 2:45 a.m. between an Amtrak passenger train and a stationary CSX freight train on the tracks.

RELATED: President Trump thanks first responders in fatal SC Amtrak train collision

Amtrak expressed their condolences for those killed in the collision in their latest statement:

We are deeply saddened to report the death of two of our employees in this morning's derailment in Cayce, South Carolina. Additionally, affected customers reporting injuries have been transported to local hospitals.

The Red Cross of South Carolina had an emergency shelter set up at Pine Ridge Middle School, but all of the passengers have left and the shelter has closed.

Pine Ridge Drive is currently blocked as a part of the investigation and officials ask people to stay away from the area during this time. Drivers are urged to find an alternate route.

Tom Allen with the Office of Regulatory Staff said that two trains on the same track is a problem.

All passengers have been removed and the injuries range from scratches and bumps to broken bones.

If you are concerned that you knew anyone on the Amtrak train, you are asked to call their support line at 1-800-523-9101. Facebook has also launched their crisis response check-in for people to connect with their families.

More than 5,000 gallons of gasoline spilled from the CSX train, but there is no chemical threat to the public.

This is the third Amtrak crash since December. Three people were killed and more than 100 injured when a train derailed in Washington state on December 18, 2017.

One person was killed and another seriously injured when another train carrying Republican lawmakers hit a garbage truck near Crozet, VA, on Jan. 31.

A CSX spokesperson released this statement, saying:

Our sincere condolences go out to the families of the two individuals who passed away following the tragic events that took place in Cayce, South Carolina early this morning. We remain focused on providing assistance and support to those impacted by today's incident. CSX hosts more passenger trains on its network than any other major railroad in the United States, and passenger rail remains one of the safest ways to travel. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into this incident and CSX will continue working with the investigating team.

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