Safety system install had signals out in SC fatal train collision

An aerial view of the site of an early morning train crash Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018 between an Amtrak train, bottom right, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce, SC. The Amtrak passenger train slammed into a freight train in the early morning darkness Sunday, killing at least two Amtrak crew members and injuring more than 110 people, authorities said. (AP Photo/Jeff Blake)


CAYCE, S.C. (AP) — Federal authorities say that a railway signaling system in South Carolina was down for maintenance when an Amtrak train crashed into a CSX freight locomotive on Sunday, causing the deaths of an Amtrak engineer and conductor.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Monday that the system was down so crews could install a “positive train control” system, which uses sensors and GPS to prevent trains from colliding or derailing.

Sumwalt had said earlier that if the system were up and running, it likely would have prevented the Amtrak train from colliding head-on into the freight train. In addition to the deaths, more than 100 people on the Amtrak train were injured and taken to hospitals, mostly with minor injuries.

Sumwalt says data recovered from the Amtrak train shows the engineer hit the emergency brakes three seconds before the trains collided at 50 mph (80 kph).

Sumwalt says investigators spoke to the CSX crew that left a switch in position to divert the passenger train off the main line, but he hadn’t been briefed on what they said.

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