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Amtrak train wreck with freight train leaves 2 dead in South Carolina

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Oren Dorell, USA TODAY
Published 6:49 a.m. ET Feb. 4, 2018 | Updated 12:01 p.m. ET Feb. 4, 2018

An Amtrak train apparently traveling on the wrong track collided with a CSX freight train early Sunday in South Carolina, killing two Amtrak employees and injuring more than 100 people, Gov. Henry McMaster said.  

It was the third deadly wreck involving Amtrak in less than two months.

“They weren’t supposed to be meeting like that, clearly,” McMaster said. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track.” He said the CSX train seemed to be on the track it was supposed to be on. 

The wreck involving Amtrak Train 91, heading from New York to Miami, occurred at 2:35 a.m. in Cayce, S.C., about 10 miles south of Columbia, according to Derrec Becker of South Carolina Emergency Management.

The CSX train was parked on what appears to be a side track when the Amtrak train slammed into it at about 59 mph, McMaster said. Of the 139 people on the Amtrak train, 116 people were taken to hospitals, he said. Eight were Amtrak employees.

“Our information — and this is subject to correction — is that this was not the main (train) line,” McMaster said. “This was a loading track for a sidetrack — where the collision took place.”

He described the freight train engines as “all torn up,” and the Amtrak engine as “barely recognizable” from the impact.

One of the injured was in critical condition, and two were listed as serious, with the rest havibng minor injuries like cuts and bruises, said Steve Shelton, Palmetto health director of emergency preparedness.

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“We know that they are shaken up quite a bit, and this is unlike anything else they’ve ever been through before,” Capt. Adam Myrick with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department told The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C. “We wanted to get them out of the cold, get them out of the weather.”

Temperatures were in the upper 30s at the time of the collision.

Myrick told USA TODAY that the crash happened in a mostly industrial area near the intersection of Interstate-26 and I-77.

Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said a team of investigators has been dispatched to Sunday’s crash. A news conference will be held this afternoon, he said.

President Trump “was briefed on the train accident in South Carolina and is receiving regular updates,” deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected by this incident.”

About 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled at the scene, Becker said. Hazmat crews were dispatched, and the spill was being contained. There was no threat to the public, he said.

The Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at nearby Pine Ridge Middle School to assist with the injured, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter,  

It was the second major crash for Amtrak in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia. The crash killed one person in the truck and left others wounded. 

In December, a passenger train derailed on an overpass near Seattle, with cars crashing into the highway below, killing three people.

In 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200.

Contributing: John Riley

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