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SC: Amtrak Blames CSX for Deadly Collision

06 February 2018

Federal investigators are trying to figure out why a switch was in the wrong position sending an Amtrak train slamming into a freight train, killing a conductor and an engineer in SC.

Kempf and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida, were killed in the train crash early Sunday near Cayce, South Carolina.

Sunday's collision marks the second Amtrak train crash in a week.

Sumwalt told reporters Sunday that a switch was in the wrong position and that a GPS-based system called "positive train control" could have prevented the crash.

PTC braking technology coordinates signals between trains, tracks and dispatchers to slow down a train when the engineer fails to respond.

In November, at an NTSB meeting to announce the results of the investigation into a fatal Amtrak crash in April of 2016 outside of Philadelphia, Chairman Sumwalt blasted the railroad for its "lax" attitude, saying "Amtrak's safety culture is failing, and is primed to fail again".

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At least two people have died and 70 injured, after two trains collided near the SC state capital, Columbia, earlier today.

Two people were killed and over 100 others were injured.

Instead, CSX workers gave the Amtrak conductor verbal instructions on how to navigate the switch yard, officials said. 'We can't wait any longer on getting PTC systems up and running nationwide. In particular, they say they are working to implement Positive Train Control (PTC), a computer system created to stop trains from colliding.

PTC is a computerized system integrating trains, signals and switches.

Congress mandated technology known as positive train control a decade ago. Speed-control equipment should prevent accidents from engineers going too fast.

Amtrak's "Silver Service" is an overnight line that connects NY and Miami with dozens of local stops along the way.

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Investigators have conducted interviews and retrieved preliminary data from the Amtrak locomotive, which showed the horn was sounded seven seconds before the recording ended, Sumwalt said.

"We have heard but not confirmed that the signals were being worked on", Sumwalt said. "I'm confident that our investigators will be able to piece the facts together".

Sunday's crash happened on a track owned, maintained and operated by CSX.

An Amtrak spokesman declined to comment on Kempf's medical care, citing employee privacy.

"We take safety very seriously".

Investigators are looking into why the switch was aligned that way, among other things, according to Sumwalt. That wreck left nine dead after a train crew failed to return a track switch in the proper position. Catherine Kempf said her son's train hit a vehicle at a rail crossing in the past year. Norfolk Southern, ultimately, fired the train's crew.

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As the railroad performed maintenance to install PTC in the SC stretch of track, workers disabled signals that normally warn train engineers of hazardous conditions.

SC: Amtrak Blames CSX for Deadly Collision