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Published On: Sun, Feb 4th, 2018

South Carolina Amtrak crash leaves 2 dead: Michael Kempf, Michael Cella, over 115 injured

Amtrak suffered its third high-profile crash in less than two months Sunday morning when a passenger train traveling on the wrong track slammed into a stationary freight train in South Carolina, killing two people: Michael Kempf, of Savannah, Ga., and conductor Michael Cella, of Orange Park, Fla.

photo/ screenshot video coverage

Amtrak’s chief executive, Richard H. Anderson, said that a signal system had been down and that dispatchers from another company, CSX, were routing trains at about the time of the wreck.

The passenger train, heading south, was diverted onto a rail siding where, while apparently traveling below the speed limit, it crashed into a CSX train that had been loaded with automobiles. The crash caused the lead engine and “some passenger cars” to derail, Amtrak officials said.

The Lexington County coroner identified the victims as engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Ga., and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Fla.

Derrec Becker of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said injuries from the crash included minor cuts and broken bones. Lexington County spokesman Harrison Cahill said passengers who were hurt were taken to local hospitals, but none had life-threatening injuries.

“Amtrak has put a question in people’s minds,” said James E. Hall, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash in South Carolina.

Federal Railroad Administration statistics have shown that in recent years the agency has had an average of about two derailments a month, accounting for about one-quarter of the accidents it reports.

In a post on Twitter, President Trump expressed his condolences to victims of the crash and thanked emergency workers. Representative Joe Wilson, a Republican who represents this area, visited the Red Cross shelter and said he remained confident in Amtrak.

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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