Transcript for 2 dead after Amtrak passenger train collides with freight train in South Carolina
We begin with the deadly train accident in South Carolina. An amtrak passenger train slamming into a freight train parked on the tracks. Crews rushing in to work to contain 5,000 gallons of fuel spilled from the trains. More than 100 people taken to the hospital, and 2 amtrak crew members losing their lives. The crash, the second deadly collision involving amtrak trains in less than a week. Tonight, David Kerley starts us off. Reporter: Daylight showed the horrific damage from the head-on train collision, the amtrak engine nearly unrecognizable after the overnight crash. We've got a train derailment. At Charleston highway and pineridge drive. If y'all have any extra people, I'm sure they're not gonna turn it down. They're taking everybody. Reporter: The amtrak engineer and conductor were riding in the front, and were killed. Nearly all of the 139 passengers suffered injuries. We first stopped, I thought I wasn't going to make it. This is the end for me. This is the way I felt. Reporter: Of the 62 taken to the hospital, only a half dozen are still being treated. The impact ripped my chair right off the floor. The lady next to me was an elderly woman, she was all tangled up in the chair in front of her. Reporter: Already on the scene, the chairman of the NTSB says the problem was a switch set in the wrong position. Was aligned for the trains coming down this way to be diverted into the siding. So, the bottom line, the csx train is parked in the siding. Reporter: The southbound amtrak train 91 headed to Miami was just outside Columbia, south Carolina. According to amtrak, signals were down, and the owner of the tracks, the freight rail company csx, was in charge of the tracks and traffic. But a switch was thrown, locked, diverting train 91 off the main line and onto a side track. But a parked csx train was also on that track. In the darkness of 2:30 in the morning, the amtrak slammed into the stationary train. Could the amtrak engineer have done anything? Do you know an answer to that yet? Well, I doubt he could have done anything. The train was going somewhere along 50 to 53 to 55 miles an hour. We need to confirm that. But moving that fast, you would only have a second to realize you're about to be diverted on to a side track. Reporter: Csx, which was in control of the rail lines, offered condolences to the families of the two dead, and said it is working with the investigative team. But the company gave no indication why the switch was set in the wrong position. Let's get right to David Kerley on the scene. David, from what we know, it seems investigators' biggest challenge is finding out why a switch could be in the wrong position and amtrak was never told. Reporter: Yes, amtrak went down these lines at 2:30 A.M., and it runs into the csx train. Why wasn't it radioed, and why was the switch put on the side line? Those are the questions. Tom? David, thank you. A terrifying experience for everyone on that train. One of the passengers, Matthew Cheeseman, was in a sleeper car with his wife and daughter on their way to Florida. He joins us now. Matthew, you were asleep, but what do you remember once the train crashed? We remember being thrown out of our seats on to the floor, with a lot of metal coming down around us. We remember the lights going off, the smell of smoke. And just being banged around. What did you do in the moment? Did you call out to your wife, to your daughter? There must have been so much confusion. My daughter and I were laying side-by-side. When the actual train crashed, together, we were thrown on to the floor. We actually, I had my arms around her when we hit the ground. But the key piece about it, we just kind of stood up, and the amtrak personnel was outstanding on our car to try to help us get off. And of course, you can't say enough about the first responders.
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