Driver Admits He Was Operating Deadly Train Ride Too Fast

ABC News obtains exclusive video of final moments in fatal S.C. accident.

ByABC News
March 22, 2011, 1:43 PM

March 22, 2011— -- The driver of a children's train ride told police he was driving too fast prior to Saturday's accident at a South Carolina park that left a 6-year-old boy dead and sent 18 people to the hospital.

A child captured the fatal accident on video, recording the harrowing moments when the train, carrying 28 people, flew off the tracks.

The video, obtained exclusively by ABC News, was shot by a child on board the "Sparky" ride at Cleveland Park in Spartanburg, S.C., and shows the train speeding up moments before Saturday's accident.

"I was going too (expletive) fast," driver Matt Conrad told police, according to an incident report.

Conrad told cops "he knew better than to drive the train that fast."

Conrad said he typically "would go slow on the first lap, go a bit faster on the second lap and it was on the third lap around the track when he opened it up to go faster."

"Mr. Conrad said that when he crossed onto the bridge he felt the back end of the engine come off the track and the next thing he knew he was off the rails and into the creek," according to the police report.

There were 28 passengers on the train when it derailed, including children and adults ranging between the ages of 3 to 54, according to police.

Benji Easler, 6, was visiting the park with a group from Corinth Baptist Church, where his father, Dwight Easler is pastor, when he was killed in the accident.

"We have no idea why it derailed but it seemed to be going a little fast according to those on board," the church said in a statement.

The train had operated at the park for more than 50 years and had run several test laps the morning of the accident.

The ride opened several weeks early because of the warm weather.

Meanwhile, a state inspector came forward Monday to admit that he had falsified the ride's latest safety report, saying he ran the train March 16 when it actually had a dead battery. The inspector was fired.

Police said Tuesday that they had not completed their investigation and had not concluded that Conrad's driving was to blame for the incident.