(Cayce, South Carolina – February 4, 2018)
Why Amtrak train #91, en route early Sunday from New York City to Miami, FL, was allegedly on the wrong track and collided head-on with a stopped CSX freight train near Columbia, SC, is currently a mystery. However, its clear the remedy that could have prevented the collision is Positive Train Control. This most recent collision killed two Amtrak employees and injured another 116 of the 139 passengers aboard the southbound Silver Star.
This is Amtrak’s third deadly train derailment in less than two months. This one occurred on the rails of the CSX transportation company at a yard facility in Cayce, SC, about 10 miles from the South Carolina State Capital of Columbia. The National Transportation Safety Board was dispatching an investigatory team versed on the lifesaving aspects of the PTC system which can determine and halt trains that are on a collision course. The NTSB has long pleaded for a cessation of railroad resistance to activation of the system whose Congressionally-mandated launch has suffered one delay after another.
Killed in the Sunday, 2:35 A.M., EST tragedy was the locomotive crew of the train, Engineer Michael Kemp, 54, and Conductor Michael Sella, 32. Both were in the cab of the locomotive, which derailed and rolled upon its side after impact with the stationary freight train, whose locomotives sustained heavy damage, and resulted in the spillage of about 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Passengers and crew, who suffered injuries ranging from scratches to broken bones, were rushed to at least three Columbia hospitals having trauma-treating emergency facilities.
The speed of the Amtrak train was said to be 59 mph, in range with an allowable 60 mph permissible for the daily average of 16 CSX and Amtrak trains that roll through the small Lexington County community.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said that “It appears Amtrak was on the wrong track”, and that the CSX train was on the correct track and stopped.
However, dispatching of trains and the setting of automatic track switches would all come under the authority and responsibility of the CSX. In addition, installation and activation of the PTC system along its own rail routes was equally the responsibility of the railroad.