Amtrak and CSX Crash in South Carolina Highlights Worker Dangers

Another horrific and deadly Amtrak accident highlights the dangers faced by workers and passengers on our railroads. On Feb. 4, two people were killed and about 70 were injured in an Amtrak and CSX crash in South Carolina.

The accident in Cayce derailed Amtrak 91, which was operating from New York to Miami. A report in The State noted the crash occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road around 2:35 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

The train had eight crew members and approximately 139 passengers on board. It was not immediately clear what caused the two trains to collide.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived on the site on Feb. 4 to help determine the cause of the crash, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt told CNN.

Crashes of this nature again highlight the dangers faced by railroad workers on a daily basis. When fast-moving passenger trains and slow freight trains are operating on the same lines or in close proximity, there is always potential for safety errors to occur.

Amtrak and CSX Crash in South Carolina
Scene of the Amtrak and CSX Crash in South Carolina (Lexington Sheriff’s Department)

Initial reports did not detail the breakdown in the injured between workers and Amtrak passengers. Engineers and conductors are often hurt in collisions on the railroad.

For the 70 or so classified as injured, the injuries ranged from small scratches to broken bones, stated Lexington County public information officer Harrison Cahill.

At least seven people were reported to be transported to local hospitals for various injuries. The severity of those injuries, including whether or not they were classified as life-threatening, was not immediately apparent.

Passengers who were not injured were shaken up and placed in a reception site set up by the American Red Cross at Pine Ridge Middle School.

Many questions are being asked in the wake of the Amtrak and CSX crash in South Carolina including the issue of the status of Positive Train Control (PTC).

PTC has been mandated by Congress but the railroads have stalled. In the devastating Amtrak crash in Washington State that killed three people in December, PTC emerged as a major issue.

Positive Train Control is meant to prevent crashes of this nature but it was not activated on the train in Washington State, even though it had the capability. Positive train control, or PTC, has the ability to automatically slow down and stop a train completely if it’s going too fast or could get into an accident. It’s also means to prevent collisions between trains. The Federal Railroad Administration hailed it as the “single-most important rail safety development in more than a century.”

The Amtrak train in Washington State was traveling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone, National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said.

I’m alarmed that poor communication and a failure to implement safety systems is putting railroad workers in danger on a daily basis.

A lawsuit filed by the family of a worker killed by an Amtrak train at Chester in Pennsylvania in 2016, said the worker believed the track was protected at the time he was struck by the train. It cited poor communication and a failure to adhere to appropriate practices and procedures.

If you have lost a loved one in a railroad accident or been injured, I would like to hear from you. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers files regular claims against Amtrak. Call us for a free consultation at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper