A passenger train has collided with a freight train in South Carolina, killing two and injuring 70.A passenger train that was diverted onto a side track has slammed into a parked freight train in South Carolina, killing two crew and injuring at least 116 others in the third fatal crash in as many months.
Amtrak Train 91, carrying nine crew members and 136 passengers, was travelling from New York to Miami when it hit the CSX Corp freight train that was stopped on a side track at about 2:30am local time.
The section of track was operated by CSX and the Amtrak train was diverted onto the siding at a switch where a padlock had been attached to steer train traffic that way, Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the US National Transportation Board, told a news conference.
“Key to this investigation is learning why the switch was lined that way,” he said, calling the damage to the locomotives “catastrophic.”
Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida, were killed.
Two of the 116 people injured were in critical condition after the crash, which happened about 8km southwest of the state capital Columbia.
“It’s a horrible thing to see, to understand what force was involved,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told reporters.
“The first engine of the freight train was torn up, and the single engine of the passenger train is barely recognisable.”
Amtrak said it was “deeply saddened” by the deaths. It said CSX owns and controls the dispatching of all trains, including the signal systems that control access to sidings and yards.
Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson said the passenger train hit the tail end of the CSX train.
The passenger train’s locomotive was left lying on its side, and the first car was bent and also derailed, although it remained upright, images from the scene showed.
At least four of the freight train’s cars were crumpled, looking like crushed tin foil, but remained on the tracks.
US President Donald Trump received regular updates on the crash while at his resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
“My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this mornings (sic) train collision in South Carolina,” he tweeted.
“Thank you to our incredible First Responders for the work they’ve done!”
In December, three people were killed when an Amtrak passenger train derailed in Washington state.
In late January, an Amtrak train carrying Republican members of the US Congress killed one person in a garbage truck with which it collided in Virginia.
A Federal Railway Administration Investigative team was on the scene in South Carolina to help establish what happened.