An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train early Sunday morning in Lexington County, South Carolina, killing at least two people and injuring more than 100, according to authorities.
The crash overnight Sunday caused the lead engine and some passenger cars to derail, Amtrak said in a statement. There were 139 passengers and 8 crew aboard the Amtrak train when it collided with the freight at around 2:35 a.m. Sunday morning, officials said.
“It’s unfortunate that we have two fatalities. Our hearts are with those families right now,” Captain Adam Myrick from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office said during an early morning press conference.
South Carolina governor gives update on train crash
The two people who were killed were both Amtrak personnel, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said during a news conference later Sunday morning. He added that 116 people in total had been taken to local hospitals, with injuries ranging from very minor to more serious.
The engineer of the Amtrak train, 54-year-old Michael Kempf, and the conductor, 36-year-old Michael Cella, were killed during the collision, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said during a news conference. Kempf was from Savannah, Georgia, and Cella was from Orange Park, Florida, she said.
Authorities said it was not immediately clear why the two trains collided near Cayce, South Carolina.
The CSX train was stationary at the time of the collision and appeared to be empty at the time of the crash, officials said. McMaster said at the Sunday press conference there were several train tracks at the location of the collision.
“Our information — subject to correction — is that this was not the main line,” McMaster said. “That is, this was a loading track or a sidetrack … where the collision took place. That’s subject to verification.”
It appeared to him that the Amtrak train “was on the wrong track” when it hit the freight train, he said, but added that he deferred to transportation experts and the investigation was still ongoing.
Railroad sources familiar with the investigation told World News investigators are looking at the possibility that CSX railroad had a switch in the wrong position. As a result, the Amtrak train was routed directly into a CSX freight train sitting on the tracks.
“It’s a horrible thing to see, to understand the force this involved,” McMaster said, referring to the crash site.
Dr. Steve Shelton, the director for emergency preparedness at Palmetto Health system, said at a news conference Sunday morning that they had received 62 patients across its three facilities.
“Currently there is one patient that is in critical condition, there are two others that are in serious and a few others that are currently being evaluated for possible serious conditions,” he said.
Shelton added that the “majority” of patients did not sustain life-threatening injuries.
A spokeswoman for the Lexington Medical Center said they received 27 patients with mostly minor injuries. Many were treated for cuts and bruises and released, while two others were admitted, spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson said.
Earlier, a spokesman for the County of Lexington told reporters that the injuries range from “small scratches and bumps to more severe broken bones.” He could not confirm if any of the injuries were life-threatening.
Jaclyn Kinney, 22, from Pinehurst, North Carolina, was in the sleeper car with her boyfriend on their way to Orlando.
“We basically woke up to the train crash,” she told World News.
“It knocked us around and we got bumped into the wall from the impact and the train derailed. The cafe car that was right in front of us was in much worse shape so we were lucky,” she said.
“The staff members came by and made sure people were okay before we left the car. We were waiting for a few minutes before they evacuated us.”
“There were a few people with noticeably bad injuries but most people didn’t seem super injured,” Kinney added.
Amtrak derailment passenger recounts terrifying crash in Cayce, SC
President Donald Trump tweeted that his “thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this mornings train collision in South Carolina” and thanked first responders.
My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this mornings train collision in South Carolina. Thank you to our incredible First Responders for the work they’ve done!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2018
The Red Cross said its trained volunteers and staff were also responding.
South Carolina’s Emergency Management Division said 5,000 gallons of fuel was spilled as a result of the crash, with Hazmat responding to the scene. Officials said there was no further threat to the public.
The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, said it was sending a team to the site of the crash.
It was the second major Amtrak incident in less than a week. On Wednesday, a train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck. One person on the truck was killed.