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Brother of Amtrak employee who died said sibling worried about safety

by Kalhan Rosenblatt /  / Updated 
Image: Michael Kempf
Train engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia was killed on Feb. 4, 2018 after an Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina.via Facebook

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The brother of an Amtrak engineer killed in a crash in South Carolina on Sunday said safety on the rails was among his sibling's biggest concern.

"He said, 'One of these times, something’s going to happen, and I’m not going to come out of that,'" Rich Kempf said of his brother Michael Kempf.

Michael Kempf, 54, the engineer, and Michael Cella, 36, a conductor, were the two Amtrak employees killed when their Miami-bound train collided with a CSX freight train in Lexington County. More than 100 people were injured in the crash.

Rich Kempf said his brother, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran and father of three from Savannah, Georgia, had experienced crashes involving pedestrians and vehicles that left him rattled.

Related: Amtrak collides with freight train in South Carolina, killing two, injuring more than 100

He said there were "three or four incidents with people walking on rails, not paying attention, getting run over by the train or cars trying to beat the train."

"There were a few fatalities in those, and they took a toll on my brother," Rich Kempf said.

Amtrak sponsors Operation Lifesaver, a railroad safety campaign that estimates a person or vehicle is struck by a train every three hours in the United States.

Image: Michael Kempf
Train engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia was killed on Feb. 4, 2018 after an Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina.via Facebook

“We will continue pressing U.S. policy makers to adequately fund the FRA Rail Crossing Grant Program to reduce the 2,000+ annual railroad crossing incidents and 200+ railroad crossing deaths in the U.S," Amtrak president and CEO Richard Anderson said in a statement. "With significant federal infrastructure investments, the industry can substantially reduce rail crossing incidents.”

Michael Kempf went to a psychiatrist for what his brother suspected was post-traumatic stress disorder, and often talked to about his concerns over Amtrak's safety, Rich Kempf said.

Related: Lack of Positive Train Control haunts another deadly collision

Image: Michael Cella
Train conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida, was killed on Feb. 4, 2018 after An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Miami collided with a CSX freight train in South Carolina.

The family of Michael Cella, of Orange Park, Florida, the other employee killed, said they are also reeling from his death.

“Everyone is still shocked from this incident,” Gary Hazel Jr., Cella’s stepbrother, told NBC News.

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