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Donald Trump's shoddy “Mickey Mouse” America…


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: February 05, 2018, 06:37:19 pm »


from The Washington Post....

Federal officials focus on why railroad switch was set in the
wrong position in South Carolina Amtrak crash that killed 2


Two people, both Amtrak employees, were killed and 116 people were transported to hospitals
for treatment after the passenger train collided with an empty CSX freight train early on Sunday.


By LORI ARATANI and FAIZ SIDDIQUI | 5:45PM EST — Sunday, February 04, 2018

Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce. Amtrak train 91 was traveling between New York and Miami and derailed in Cayce, outside the state capital, Columbia, when it collided with the CSX freight train at around 2:30 a.m. — Photograph: Tim Dominick/The State/Associated Press.
Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce. Amtrak train 91 was traveling between New York and Miami and derailed in Cayce,
outside the state capital, Columbia, when it collided with the CSX freight train at around 2:30 a.m. — Photograph: Tim Dominick/The State/Associated Press.


FEDERAL safety officials are focusing on why a railroad switch was set in the wrong position sending an New York-to-Miami bound Amtrak train with more than 140 people aboard off the main line and onto a side track where it collided with an empty freight train early on Sunday.

Two people were killed and 116 injured in the crash that occurred around 2:35 a.m. in Cayce, South Carolina, a few miles south of Columbia, officials said. The two men who died were Amtrak employees — the  engineer and conductor who were riding in the front of the train.




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

The crash caused the lead engine and “some passenger cars” to derail, Amtrak officials said. The CSX train was parked on a track next to the main railroad line and was empty, according to South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (Republican).


National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt presents the investigation to the media during a news conference at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division in Cayce. — Logan Cyrus/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt presents the investigation to the media during a news conference
at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division in Cayce. — Logan Cyrus/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


In a briefing with reporters on Sunday afternoon, Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, detailed what is known so far.

The Amtrak train, traveling on tracks owned and maintained by freight railway giant, CSX, was supposed to pass over the switch to continue on to the main line tracks, but instead was directed onto the pad-locked crossing into a portion of track known as “siding” which was occupied by a parked CSX train, Sumwalt said.

“For whatever reason that switch was, as they say in the railroad industry, ‘lined and locked’,” he said. “Which basically means it was aligned for the train coming this way to be diverted into the siding.”

“Key to this investigation [is] why that switch was lined that way,” Sumwalt said.

He said investigators have recovered the front-facing video camera from the Amtrak train and that it has been sent to labs at NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C., where it will be reviewed. The footage will be important because it can offer details about what happened in the minutes before the collision.

However, he added that investigators have been unable to recover the event data recorders from either train in part because of the extent of the damage.

Sumwalt said there was “… catastrophic damage to each of the locomotives,” adding that the Amtrak locomotive “… was not recognizable at all.”

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.


A derailed Amtrak car can be seen up the tracks near a crossing after an early morning collision with a CSX freight train in Cayce, South Carolina. Two Amtrak employees were killed and more than 100 others injured. — Photograph: Logan Cyrus/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
A derailed Amtrak car can be seen up the tracks near a crossing after an early morning collision with a CSX freight train in Cayce, South Carolina.
Two Amtrak employees were killed and more than 100 others injured. — Photograph: Logan Cyrus/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


Emergency responders at the scene of the fatal Amtrak train crash in South Carolina. — Photograph: Randall Hill/Reuters.
Emergency responders at the scene of the fatal Amtrak train crash in South Carolina. — Photograph: Randall Hill/Reuters.

There were two leaks from the train, spilling an estimated 5,000 gallons of fuel, but there was “no threat to the public at this time,” Cahill said at a morning news conference. He later said that it was unclear from where the fuel had leaked.

It will take several months to determine the cause of the crash, Sumwalt said. But he added that he expected to have more details on Monday. In addition to investigators from the NTSB, personnel from the Federal Railroad Administration, which oversees the safety of the nation's railroads are also at the site.

“The Federal Railroad Administration Investigative team is on site to support to the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation,” the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the situation and have  been in contact with CSX and Amtrak as well as federal, state and local officials.”

The Transportation Department said Secretary Elaine Chao also sent her senior adviser, Jim Ray, to the crash site.

“It is important to understand the factors that contributed to this tragic accident and how all stakeholders can ensure a safe and reliable rail system going forward,” the DOT statement said.

Sumwalt said NTSB investigators had heard, but not confirmed, reports that maintenance work was being performed on the signal system prior to Sunday's crash.

Officials from CSX said its personnel were on the scene assisting state and local authorities, but did not respond to questions about whether the collision could have been the result of a switch issue or if there had been other issues — including a signal outage — on that stretch of track.

Earlier in the day, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said that the signalling system was not operating, which is why trains were being directed through the corridor manually by CSX dispatchers.


Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce. — Photograph: Tim Dominick/The State/Associated Press.
Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce. — Photograph: Tim Dominick/The State/Associated Press.

Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce. This is the third deadly incident involving an Amtrak train since December. — Photograph: Tim Dominick/Associated Press.
Authorities investigate the scene of a fatal Amtrak train crash in Cayce. This is the third deadly incident involving an Amtrak train since December.
 — Photograph: Tim Dominick/Associated Press.


Anderson said CSX owns and controls the Columbia Subdivision tracks where the crash occurred and is responsible for overseeing the dispatching of trains and signal systems.

“They are in complete control of the track, the signaling, the switching — and in fact our train engineers and conductors as we move over their railroad are directed and in regular contact with the dispatch center at CSX,” Anderson said, adding, “… the signals and particularly the switches are controlled by CSX.”

He said he did not know the reason for the signal outage. Anderson said the Amtrak train would normally travel on the main line track, not the section of the track where the collision occurred.

“As I said, control of which train is on which track is within the authority of the dispatcher and the host railroad that controls the switch,” Anderson said.

Tom Allen, program manager for the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, which oversees rail safety in the state, said the collision could have been the result of a switch issue that sent the Amtrak train away from the main track and toward the parked freight train. But he emphasized it will be up to federal investigators to determine the cause.

President Trump offered his words of support and thanked first responders in a tweet sent Sunday morning.

This is the third crash involving an Amtrak train in less than three months. Last week, a special charter Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers to a retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck. One person in the truck was killed in the crash in Crozet, Virginia. In December, an Amtrak train in Washington state derailed while crossing an overpass, spilling cars onto a busy highway and killing three people.

Federal investigators have not determined the cause of the earlier crashes; investigations can take months or even years, but the incidents are likely to raise concerns about the safety of the nation's rail system and focus more attention on the push to install a technology known as positive train control, an automatic braking system that federal safety officials say could have prevented hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries over the years.


Investigators make their way around the train wreckage under the Charleston Highway overpass. — Photograph: Bob Leverone/Getty Images.
Investigators make their way around the train wreckage under the Charleston Highway overpass. — Photograph: Bob Leverone/Getty Images.

The derailed Amtrak train in Cayce. — Photograph: Meg Kinnard/Associated Press.
The derailed Amtrak train in Cayce. — Photograph: Meg Kinnard/Associated Press.

Even though it is early in the investigation, Sumwalt was adamant about the benefits of positive train control, and how it could have factored into an incident like Sunday's.

“An operational PTC system is designed to prevent this type of accident,” he said. “A fully operational positive train control system could have avoided this accident, and that's what it was designed to do.”

Asked for a simple explanation of such a system, Sumwalt said it would automatically halt a train entering an occupied track.

“If you have a red signal … and you go blasting through that signal, it will enforce that signal and [not] allow you to go through that signal,” he said.

In a letter sent last month to railroad industry officials, Chao warned them that they are expected to meet the federal deadline to have the systems installed by the end of this year.

On Sunday, Amtrak's Anderson also emphasized that it was important for railroads to meet the December 31st deadline to install PTC.

He did not know if it could have prevented Sunday's crash, but said the track components involved would likely have been covered under such a system.

“Theoretically a well-run operable PTC system not only would cover speed, but would also cover switches and signals,” he said. It's “… important that PTC be implemented by the end of the year and that we don't give any extensions.”


An aerial view of the site of the collision between an Amtrak train, bottom right, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce. — Jeff Blake/Associated Press.
An aerial view of the site of the collision between an Amtrak train, bottom right, and a CSX freight train, top left, in Cayce. — Jeff Blake/Associated Press.

CSX employees walk near the derailed Amtrak cars. — Photograph: Logan Cyrus/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
CSX employees walk near the derailed Amtrak cars. — Photograph: Logan Cyrus/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

Amtrak passenger Derek Pettaway said he woke with a jolt when the collision happened early on Sunday, suffering minor whiplash. He had taken shelter with other passengers at the nearby Pine Ridge Middle School, where authorities were providing medical care. “No one was panicking. I think most people were asleep. I think people were more in shock,” Pettaway said in an interview with CNN.

The White House press pool was told that President Trump had been briefed on the situation and was receiving regular updates. Other officials also offered statements of support. Senator Tim Scott (Republican-South Carolina) said his “prayers are with the families of those killed.”

Representative Joe Wilson (Republican-South Carolina) said those who were affected were in his thoughts.

Sumwalt said the Amtrak train contained seven passenger cars and one locomotive, while the CSX train contained two locomotives and 34 empty “autorack” cars, meant for transporting automobiles.

“The expectation of course was that the Amtrak would be operating straight down” the track, Sumwalt said.


__________________________________________________________________________

Luz Lazo and Alisa Tang contributed to this report.

• Lori Aratani writes about transportation issues for The Washington Post, including how people get around — or don't. Her beat includes airlines and airports as well as the agencies that oversee them.

• Faiz Siddiqui is a metro reporter covering transportation and local issues for The Washington Post. He has previously contributed to NPR, The Boston Globe and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • PHOTOGRAPH GALLERY: See photos of a fatal train crash in South Carolina

 • One person killed when Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers to retreat hits garbage truck

 • Trump administration says railroads must meet automatic-braking-system deadline

 • At least 3 killed after Amtrak train derails in Washington state, spilling rail cars onto busy highway


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2018/02/04/at-least-2-dead-after-amtrak-train-collides-with-freight-train-in-south-carolina
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