Another Culprit Identified in South Carolina Amtrak Tragedy

February 05, 2018Feb 05, 2018

Reports are claiming that as federal investigators try to figure out how a rail switch ended up in the wrong position, sending an Amtrak train into a freight train in South Carolina, they have gained several important insights. 

According to Reuters, a locked track switch is partly to blame for the deadly collision of an Amtrak passenger train with a freight train, killing two people and injuring another 116 on Sunday.

In particular, a switch on the tracks was padlocked into a position that actually steered the Amtrak train into a siding near state capital Columbia, in central South Carolina, where it then crashed into a parked unoccupied train.

Investigators believe the crash that injured 100 passengers and killed 2 more could have been prevented in other ways too. According to the LA Times, a GPS-based system called "positive train control," which knows the location of all trains and the positions of all switches in an area can prevent such tragedies from happening. As the LA Times puts it, such a GPS-based system is able to "prevent the kind of human error that puts two trains on the same track."

Citing the National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt, the LA Times writes that "It could have avoided this accident. That's what it's designed to do." 

Indeed, regulators have wanted the implementation of positive train control for numerous decades. Currently, this technology is implemented throughout the Northeast. But railroads that operate tracks by Amtrak throughout other parts of the United States have received extensions from the government allowing them to forestall the implementation of these precautionary measures which the private market is currently demanding.

CNN, too, has cited no positive train control as a vital reason for why two trains were on the same tracks. Railroads companies, according to the news organization, have until the end of 2018 to implement them. It is unclear why this particular train didn't have positive train control. 

The tracks were being manually controlled by CSX, who has issued an apology to those who were impacted by the crash. 

"Our sincere condolences go out to the families of the two individuals who passed away following the tragic events that took place in Cayce, South Carolina, early this morning. We remain focused on providing assistance and support to those impacted by today's incident," they said.

"CSX hosts more passenger trains on its network than any other major railroad in the United States, and passenger rail remains one of the safest ways to travel. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into this incident and CSX will continue working with the investigating team."

On Sunday, a Miami-bound Amtrak train appeared to be on the wrong track when it violently collided with a freight train in South Carolina. The collision killed two people and injured 116 more. 

147 people were aboard the train that slammed into the freight train.

The South Carolina governor Henry McMaster confirms that Amtrak was on the wrong track, according to ABC News.

"It appears that the Amtrak was on the wrong track," McMaster said. "They weren't supposed to be meeting right there by the bridge, clearly. And it may be a time factor, but that's what it appears to me. But I defer to those who are experts in that and do have the correct information, but it appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track."

The two people who died were the train conductor and engineer.

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