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NTSB: Human error likely main cause of South Carolina crash

February 15, 2018

FILE- This Feb. 4, 2018, file photo shows an aerial view of the site of a fatal train crash between an Amtrak train, bottom right, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce, S.C. According to a preliminary report by The National Transportation Safety Board dated Tuesday, Feb. 13, human error is likely the cause of the collision. (AP Photo/Jeff Blake, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Human error is likely the cause of a collision between an Amtrak train and a freight train in South Carolina that killed two people and injured dozens of others earlier this month, according to a preliminary report by federal investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board report dated Tuesday said “the evidence indicates that human decision making and actions likely played key roles” in the Feb. 4 crash near the city of Cayce.

The report said a switch was in the wrong position, sending the passenger train onto a side track where a CSX freight train was parked.

Investigators said earlier that railway signals were not operating normally at the time of the crash while crews installed a safety system that could have prevented the exact type of wreck that killed engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida. More than 100 passengers were taken to hospitals for treatment.

The preliminary reports said “safe movement of the trains through the signal suspension depended on proper switch alignment, which, in turn, relied on error-free manual work.”

The NTSB has recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration issue an emergency order to require railroads to take extra steps when the signal system is out of service and a switch has been repositioned, as in this case.

The report recommended that the next train or locomotive to pass through the location should do so at a low speed and should report to the dispatcher that the switch is in the correct position.

Only then, should trains be allowed to use normal speeds in the area, the report recommended.

The final NTSB report is not expected for months.

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