Railroad was installing 'Positive Train Control' before deadly Amtrak crash
Investigators make their way around the train wreckage under the Charleston Highway overpass where two trains collided early Sunday morning on Feb. 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina.Bob Leverone / Getty Images
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Signals were down on a South Carolina railroad where a deadly crash occurred on Sunday morning because a computerized system designed to prevent such incidents was being installed there, federal authorities said Monday.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the upgrades to a “Positive Train Control” system left the red, green and yellow lights that govern train transportation inoperable.
Had that system been fully operational, Sumwalt said earlier, the Amtrak passenger train traveling from New York City to Miami likely would have avoided the parked CSX freight train just outside South Carolina’s capital city.
The Florida-based railroad company owns the tracks the passenger train was traveling on.
Sumwalt said Monday that it was unclear why the switch was left in that position. Federal investigators interviewed CSX train crew members on Monday, while Amtrak personnel would be interviewed Tuesday, he said.
Two Amtrak employees were killed in the crash: engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida. More than 100 people were also injured.
Steve Shelton, director for emergency preparedness at Palmetto Health System, where 62 passengers were hospitalized, said Monday that six patients remained there. Two were in critical condition and two were listed as serious, he said.
Sumwalt said that data from a recorder on the Amtrak train showed that it wasn’t speeding when it hit the CSX locomotive. The train’s horn sounded just seven seconds before the crash, while its brakes and emergency brake were activated five seconds and three seconds before impact.
The 50-mph, locomotive to locomotive crash pushed the CSX train back 15 feet, he said.