NTSB: Freight crew was on scene during S. Carolina crash
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The crew of a CSX freight train was still on scene at the time of a deadly South Carolina crash, with an engineer running to safety as a passenger train hurtled down the track toward him, federal investigators said Wednesday.
That detail was among information released by the National Transportation Safety Board, which also noted that the freight train’s conductor “was thrown off the locomotive and sustained minor injuries.”
Most of the information released Wednesday mirrored details from a preliminary report published several weeks ago about the Feb. 4 crash near Cayce, in which the NTSB said human decision-making “likely” played a key role. Investigators said that a track switch was in the wrong position, sending a New York-to-Miami Amtrak passenger train onto a side track where the CSX freight train was parked after offloading materials nearby.
Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida, were killed. More than 100 passengers were taken to hospitals for treatment.
Authorities have also been analyzing a data recorder from the Amtrak locomotive, which investigators have said showed the train was going just under the 59 mph (95 kph) speed limit, and that the engineer applied the horn and emergency brakes before the crash.
Upon initial inspection, the NTSB also said that forward-facing video from the Amtrak locomotive stopped recording before the crash but that officials were still trying to determine if they could get more information from it.
In earlier comments, investigators said that railway signals were not operating normally at the time of the crash and were offline while crews installed a safety system that could have prevented this type of incident. 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 final NTSB report on the Cayce crash isn’t expected for months.
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