Amtrak Train Wasn't Speeding: It Was on the Wrong Track

2 dead, more than 100 injured in South Carolina when it hits a parked freight train
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2018 1:45 PM CST
Amtrak Train Wasn't Speeding: It Was on the Wrong Track
Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce, South Carolina.   (Tim Dominick/The State via AP)

The cause of Sunday morning's deadly train crash in South Carolina appears to be the most basic one imaginable: The Amtrak train that plowed into a parked freight train was on the wrong track, say state officials. Now the big question is how that happened. Two people are dead—the conductor and engineer aboard the Amtrak train—and more than 110 people injured, per the latest count from the AP. At least three of the injured were in serious or critical condition, and almost everyone else had relatively minor cuts or bruises. The Amtrak Silver Star from New York to Miami had been traveling about 50mph when it crashed into the empty CSX train, well within the 59mph speed limit for that stretch of tracks in Cayce, South Carolina, reports the State. The best guess at this point is that a switch in the wrong position sent the Amtrak train onto the wrong path.

“Part of the preliminary indications are that it would have to be a switching issue,’’ says a state transportation official. "It was no derailment caused by a flaw in the track. The Amtrak was on the wrong track.’’ He adds that CSX owns the track and would be the one responsible for maintaining the switches. Amtrak emphasized that point in its own statement, which also said it was "saddened" at the death of its two employees. NBC News reports that the Amtrak train received verbal permission to use the set of tracks because the CSX signals were offline for maintenance. The crash might have been avoided if the tracks had a safety system known as the Positive Train Control system, which sends warnings to trains ahead of a possible collision. PTC is being phased in around the country, but it's not up and running yet on these tracks. (More Amtrak stories.)

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